Colorado has a serious budget issue that does not get the attention needed to provide effective management of issues affecting the senior population. The demographics projecting the aging population are based on persons already living in Colorado, and accordingly have a “high” level of accuracy.
In the next 15 years the number of persons age 80 and older increases by 120%. This percentage far exceeds the projected overall percentage of population growth in the state. Technically this should suggest an increase in funds available for services supporting senior needs. But it is unrealistic to believe that these potentially needed funds will be available.
Colorado has a constitutional requirement to balance its budget. This is a good thing, unlike some states which have incurred large debt, Colorado must make difficult decisions every year. This keeps our state fiscally healthy. But it also makes it clear that funds available for senior services will be limited.
There is a specific example included in the budget that is a precursor of the future. Many people aged 65 and older have benefited from the reduction in property taxes. When the state has skipped a year because of serious budget constraints, this generates perhaps as many calls to legislators and senior advocates as any budget legislation.
But in a short period of time (5 years) the cost to the state has increased from approximately $80 million to a projection of about $150 million for the budget currently being considered. This is not a sustainable rate of increase. And, it is projected that, without change, this rate of increase will continue into the future.
Accordingly, it is anticipated that the amount available this year will be 50%, or less, of the fully funded amount as set forth in the state constitution. This is an example many can relate to. But, the same limitations are and will continue in many basic senior services. (This is in addition to the possible impact of Federal funding changes.)
For seniors this is a call to action: We want the state to be wise in its allocation of resources. There is a “driving force” that demands that the state search out new ideas, new technologies and new procedures.
Those who attended Senior Day at the Capitol now know that it is important to contact your legislators during the summer/fall period when most legislative ideas are being formulated. But the need for involvement extends into each legislative session – contacting your legislators, contacting committee members, and testifying. Remember – nothing beats “from the heart” testimony.
For those not yet seniors, this is an even more important call to action: If you have aging parents, the burden of care may become your responsibility. And – remember you will also be aging, and actions taken in the short term will have consequences in the future.