Barry Poulson, Ph.D., a University of Colorado economist, joined the Republican Study Committee last week to talk about the Citizens’ Budget, and particularly the issue of funding for higher education. But in his testimony he seemed to hit on an important point. Although we will see a significantly tightened budget this year in the legislature, it seems the provisions that the people - and by extension the legislature - seem to support are those where a demonstrated benefit can be shown to the taxpayer or (in the case of higher education, the actual student). According to Poulson:

For the last five years TABOR has not constrained anything. There has been no TABOR limit for five years and so the legislature has been able to allocate their budget without any constraints in terms of limits in terms of the total revenue and spending. This is a period where there’s been the sharpest cut-back in state funding for higher education and what’s interesting is that there were several bills introduced in the legislature in the last few years that would have earmarked more money for higher education, the legislature did not pass that and none of those bills made it through. So what that tells me is that there is not legislative support for increased funding for higher education and more importantly I don’t think there’s a great deal of support out there in the public in Colorado for throwing more money at this higher education system. And I think the reason is that people have finally figured out that when they spend more money, the state spends more money for higher education, unfortunately little of that benefits students.

Poulson is suggesting a voucher to demonstrably drop the cost of higher education for the actual student and claims that the people don’t want additional dollars going to staff and administrators, but to the students themselves.

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