I am writing this edition here at home where I can see the antique regulator clock on the wall. The pendulum swings back and forth, ticking off the seconds of another day. I realize, in spite of all mankind’s efforts to control and or predict it, time keeps moving on.
According to some folks who evidently followed the Mayan calendar, the world was supposed to have ended Dec. 12, 2012. The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, was headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened, the date was moved forward to December 2012 and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012. We are still here.
Let us also not forget the timely predictions of the great climatologist, former Vice President Al Gore. In one of his predictions, Gore told a German audience in 2008 that “the entire north polarized cap will disappear in five years.”
It is still there, and some scientists reported the Arctic ice cap getting larger a few years later. Father Time has just kept plodding along.
This world has experienced a lot since mankind has been around. Pandemics (diseases that cross international borders) such as the coronavirus, are not new to our world. Historically, the top 10 pandemics include: Antonine Plague (165 AD - five million deaths), Plague of Justinian (541 AD –25 million deaths), the Black Death (1346 AD – 75 to 200 million deaths), Third Cholera Epidemic (1852 – one million deaths), Flu Pandemic (1889 – one million deaths), Sixth Cholera Pandemic (1910 – 800,000+ deaths), Flu Pandemic (1918 – 20 to 50 million deaths), Asian Flu (1956 – two million deaths), Flu Pandemic (1968 – one million deaths) and HIV/AIDS Pandemic (2005 – 36 million deaths).
Cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox and influenza are some of the most brutal killers in human history. Smallpox, for example, throughout history has killed between 300 and 500 million people in its 12,000-year existence.
Make no mistake, the coronavirus and the COVID-19 symptoms, are real threats here in Colorado, the U.S. and the world. The death toll continues to rise and no one knows at this point if the death toll will reach the world-wide numbers of previous pandemics.
Only time will tell. I am betting we will win this battle, and humankind will have recorded another pandemic in the long list of world-wide pandemics. The pendulum will swing back the other way when life was nearly normal.
The physical toll of the coronavirus on Colorado is one side of the tragedy; the economic toll is another. Governments do not fund themselves. Taxpayer dollars fund local, state and national governments. With unemployment running amok, businesses closing and consumers hunkered down in their homes, tax revenues are plummeting.
Trust me, two trillion dollars of stimulus money from a Federal government that is already deficit spending might ease some pain, but it will not stop the bleeding.
Let me share some information about the economic impact at the state level on the two biggies we absolutely have to take care of this session: the state budget and school finance.
The March 16 Economic Forecast projected shortfalls ranging from $341.2 million to $927.3 million. (These estimates were made prior to the escalation of the coronavirus, so we have to assume the numbers were a bit optimistic.)
The Joint Budget Committee has to take action to reduce approved place holders, Long Bill appropriations for department operations and capital projects. They must also deny or reduce pending amounts requested from the governor. There won’t be much (if any) money left over to fund legislative bills currently proposed: family leave, the public option, etc.
Funding K-12 School Finance is a priority for the JBC. Not just because education is important, but also because K-12 funding is a constitutional mandate. JBC plans to increase the Per Pupil Revenue enough to meet the requirements of Amendment 23 and keep the Budget Stabilization (formally the Negative Factor) from increasing.
The proposed K-12 funding would come from three sources: $4,253,281,058 from the General Fund (an increase of $79.8 million above the fiscal year 2019-20 appropriation), $386,959,295 cash funds from the State Education Fund (a decrease of $6.6 million below the FY 2019-20 appropriation) and $71,354,692 cash funds from the State Public School Fund (an increase of $9.6 million above the recommended appropriation for FY 2019-20).
Based on the JBC’s guesstimates, the state’s share of K-12 funding would total $4.7-plus billion, plus the local share (property taxes) of $3-plus billion for a total K-12 funding figure of $7,765,557,249.
Unlike the Federal government, Colorado has to balance its budget and fund K-12 schools, and we cannot print our own money to do so. The JBC’s task of balancing the budget will not disappear, and time is running short with the Legislature in recess. There will be gallons of midnight oil consumed in the JBC’s committee hearings in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the pendulum continues to swing.