Colorado stimulus spending ‘coming into focus’
DENVER Now that stimulus money is being spent in Colorado, with checks for everything from food stamps to highway projects already out the door, state officials say they’re starting to get a better handle on how the spending is affecting Colorado’s economy.But it will be months before it’s clear exactly how much money Colorado will receive as part of national stimulus spending, or how many jobs it has created or saved. Overall, Colorado is getting at least $2.9 billion from the national stimulus law, a figure that could more than double if Colorado wins competitive grants.A state board set up by Gov. Bill Ritter to oversee stimulus spending met Wednesday for an update on how the stimulus is affecting Colorado. As in previous meetings, the panel of state officials and business owners was short on specifics. But there was a sense among board members that they’re getting a handle on where money is headed and how much.For example, officials said Colorado is closer to knowing how many jobs are being created because of the heavier government spending.”This thing is something that is slowly coming into focus,” said Mark Cavanaugh of the Governor’s Office of State Planning & Budgeting. Cavanaugh said the state doesn’t have an exact count yet how many jobs have or will be created, but they’re using as a rough guide one job per $97,000 in government spending. He acknowledged the state will need to be much more specific before long.”It’s not gonna be enough to say we spent this amount of money so we created this many jobs,” Cavanaugh said.Nationally, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the $787 billion package has so far created or saved 150,000 jobs. (Those numbers are difficult to verify, however. The nation overall has lost 1.3 million jobs since February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.)Despite the difficulties trying to size up the stimulus, Colorado got a better sense how the stimulus is being spent in a few ways this week: Ritter’s office put out a 32-page stimulus summary this week called “What it means for Colorado.” The reports lists specifics on where the money is being spent, from $760 million to prevent cuts to education to $240,000 to put low-skill elderly workers in community service jobs. The state announced Wednesday that the Department of Transportation is dishing out money much faster than required. Colorado had a deadline to commit at least $141.4 million of its recovery money to transportation projects. The state says it has committed $162.7 million already. Ritter released a proposal to seek federal grants for clean energy. His proposal asks for about $49 million to help fund renewable energy projects such as wind and solar power in Colorado.The details were welcomed by members of the oversight board, but they acknowledged they still have only a very broad sense of where the money is going.Don Elliman, the state’s economic development director and chairman of the oversight board, said Colorado will have seven employees by the end of the month to deal with stimulus tracking and questions.Many states have complained they don’t have enough staff to oversee stimulus spending. The federal Office of Budget and Management responded Wednesday by assuring states that federal money for estimated administrative costs will be provided up front.
The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.