Program digging deeper into public policy

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An additional in-depth view on a tough question is always valuable.

That’s the result we are hoping for following the announcement last week of an economic measurement initiative backed by several regional entities and tasked to be conducted by the Business Research Division of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

The school will run the program on behalf of main funding sponsors the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., the Denver South Economic Development Partnership and the Common Sense Policy Roundtable.

This econometric model developed by Regional Economic Models Inc., or REMI, promises to break out costs, benefits, positives and negatives of state issues in greater detail for lawmakers, business leaders and in turn the public. The first project will take on Initiative 22 — expected to be on the ballot in November — which is a great choice.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has already given an initial nod to Initiative 22, the type of tax measure that usually needs a push from the sitting governor to have a shot. The initiative asks voters to increase the state income tax rate from 4.63 to 5 percent for those making an income of $75,000 or less and 5.9 percent for income above that amount. Under the measure, the Legislature has put forth a plan to infuse the state with about $950 million for education.

We are starting to see many questions generated about what the real impacts will be and where the money will actually go. So we are very pleased to see this economic model launched in time for this momentous decision.

Typically in coverage of these major measures, we come across various evaluations, but too often the information comes from parties with clear interests — in extremes that can extend from hardened opposition to increased taxes to open arms for all funding for education.

Kevin McCasky, president and CEO at Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, is among those who welcomes the added analysis. He said that while the state does well breaking out the expenditures behind major policy changes, the full fiscal impacts are not as clear. In addition to producing more complete analysis, he said the econometric model will be neutral, not colored by political frameworks.

We have been reminded that the econometric model is a tool, but at first look it appears to be a very good one. Our hope is that this new analysis offers a valuable breakout that covers key factors quickly and clearly in a way that cuts to the core of issues more quickly.

Further we hope to see the process have an impact in the vetting process for public policy in formative stages.