DENVER - Colorado's employment levels are back to where they were before the recession and tax receipts continue to exceed expectations, Gov. John Hickenlooper's economists said Thursday.
Tax receipts are expected to be $307.5 million higher than they predicted in March, meaning the state will end the fiscal year with about $8.6 billion in general fund revenue.
The economists also noted a benchmark: Colorado has 2.4 million jobs - the same number the state had in 2008 before the Great Recession hit.
"We believe it's a notable accomplishment to the economy and something to be happy about," Henry Sobanet, the governor's budget director, told lawmakers.
The news came as Hickenlooper's and legislative staff delivered their quarterly economic forecast, the last of the fiscal year that ends June 30. The governor's economists say Colorado will end with a general fund surplus of $1.1 billion, which by law will be directed to the state's education savings account.
Economists attributed the revenue growth to higher-than-predicted individual income tax payments from April. The state has also benefited from taxes on stock sales, a windfall economists have repeatedly warned can't be counted on in future years.
The report from legislative staff, which included similar projections as the governor's economists, credited Colorado's economic growth to gains in employment, consumer spending, and residential construction activity.
As with previous forecasts, though, economists also expressed caution because of the volatility of the global economy, particularly the recession in Europe. Natalie Mullis, the legislative chief economist, said Colorado's economy is still dependent on federal fiscal policy.
"It is still quite fragile, it's still very much like an adolescent. It's not fully mature," she said.
Later Thursday, for example, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 353 points as traders anticipate the end of the Federal Reserve's bond-buying program.
Still, the governor's economists said Colorado's economy is among the best performing in the nation, with growth in most of the state's major industries.
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