Governor Polis recorded this interview for the Results for America 2021 Invest In What Works State Standard of Excellence, in which Colorado was recognized as a leading state in using data and evidence to drive operational and budget decisions, including the Governor's Reimagine State Government initiative.
Under the leadership of Governor Jared Polis, the State of Colorado has committed to reimagine the way our state government operates. We are committed to building an agile and responsive state government that leverages new innovations, eliminates waste, identifies cost savings, harnesses the skills of its employees through a superior employee experience, ensures safety, and delivers exceptional services to Coloradans. Our government will be designed to deliver the most value to the most Coloradans and, rather than be restricted by how things have been done before, we will continuously innovate.
This work was in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was focused on six pillars:
Increase Employee Engagement
The State of Colorado aims to become an employer of choice by increasing engagement of State employees to 77 percent by 2025, as measured by the employee engagement survey. The State will identify opportunities to enhance the employee experience and make high impact improvements to retain and attract the best talent. This includes our Administration’s focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion, consistent with the Governor's Executive Order 2020-175. We are committed to creating a work culture that engages employees so that together we can create a Colorado for all.
In November 2021, Governor Polis signed the first-ever partnership agreement with Colorado WINS, the State employee labor union. The agreement will ensure that Colorado continues to be a workplace where employees can help serve our state and thrive while doing so. Specifically, the agreement provides for employee raises for each of the next three years, establishes a $15/hour minimum wage for State workers, and provides additional paid family and medical leave for the State workforce. In 2022, Governor Polis signed an amended agreement to further improve wages and pay cycle for covered State employees. The agreement included across the board salary increases for state employees of 5% in 2023 and an additional 3% increase in 2024, pending legislative approval.
With this agreement, our continued focus on equity, and new benefits, we expect to see employee engagement scores increase over time, towards our goal of 77% by 2025.
Safe Custodial Facilities
One of the State Government’s most crucial tasks is to care for and protect those who are in our custody. Ensuring their health and safety, including minimizing the number of COVID-19 outbreaks and cases in this population was accomplished through effective monitoring, intervention, and surveillance testing.
The State of Colorado has tracked data internally on COVID-19 in state facilities since March 2020. There are dozens of facilities statewide that house and care for people. We know our diligence and work has helped to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Throughout 2021 and 2022, Colorado prioritized vaccination efforts in state facilities, as shown in the image below. Colorado was recognized as a leading state for COVID-19 data transparency in adult correctional and youth services facilities in a March 2021 report from the University of Texas. You can view current COVID-19 data for those living in state facilities on The Department of Corrections public dashboard.
Reduce our Physical Footprint
Catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the State seized an opportunity to create a more nimble, flexible workforce, which included where and how employees worked. Remote work, office hoteling, and other best practices began to emerge to create a new, innovative operating model for the State of Colorado. In an effort to better manage resources and save costs, we set a goal to reduce the State's physical footprint by one million square feet by 2025. We identified underutilized assets as well as opportunities to use space differently, maximize efficiency, and reduce costs, without reducing quality of service.
Since July 2020, the State of Colorado has focused on reducing leased space as shown in the chart below. As leases come up for renewal, and as renovations are made to existing State facilities, we anticipate permanent budget reductions as a result of our efforts.
Responsibly Manage the State Budget
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Polis administration responsibly managed the State's budget to address the revenue and workload impacts of the pandemic while minimizing the impact on services to Coloradans and setting the stage for a strong economic recovery. Many programs saw reductions in appropriations due to revenue depletion from the economic recession caused by the global pandemic. Through strong leadership and fiscally responsible policies, Colorado successfully managed this temporary reduction in revenue.
In FY 2021-22, the Governor proposed $271 million in General Fund reductions, continuing many of the one-time reductions from FY 2020-21 shown in the first chart below. Then, in FY 2022-23, the Governor proposed to pre-pay over $1.8 billion to reduce liabilities in future fiscal years. Through these investments, and thanks to the leadership of the Legislature, Colorado has already more than doubled its state reserves since the Governor took office, as indicated in the second chart below.
Following the influx of state and federal stimulus dollars, the State is making strategic investments to both strengthen the current economy and ensure a good fiscal footing for years to come. You can view statewide spending data for economic recovery on this dashboard.
Increase Access to Virtual Services
It is crucial that we ensure government services are available to anyone, anywhere, anytime they are needed. Coloradans are able to work from home at greater rates since March 2020, quickly representing a new normal for many workers across the economy. Being able to provide government services via phones, laptops, and kiosks has become more important than ever before.
Through strategic problem solving, a team of interagency State employees increased digital government services by identifying opportunities to expand the number of online service offerings, while also expanding access to those services across Colorado. During the pandemic, the state converted nearly 150,000 transactions from in-person to virtual, as shown in the first chart below. Moving forward, the State is focusing on reaching the ambitious goal of providing as close to 100% of our services virtually as possible by 2026.
Accomplish More Bold Goals
While the State of Colorado was responsible for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, we did not forget the visions and ambitions outlined prior to March 2020. Rather, the State has an obligation to commit to the ambitious priorities outlined in agency performance plans for State government success, aligned with key social outcomes and the administration's top priorities.
In the aggregate, the State typically accomplishes about 60% of the ambitious goals set each fiscal year while many goals are achieved shortly thereafter. The Governor's Office of Operations tracks agency goals monthly through the Governor's Dashboard. Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, State agencies continued to achieve the majority of their ambitious performance goals, even while responding to a global pandemic, and adopting significant operational changes. Simultaneously, performance planners are working to increase the maturity of goals set by agencies. That means setting goals that are more ambitious, address the mission statements and outcomes of our programs, and reflect evidence-based evaluations wherever possible.
Here are some examples of our accomplishments since the onset of COVID-19:
- Created or retained more than 5,900 jobs in rural Colorado
- Reduced the unemployment rate to 5.4% in October 2021, down from more than 11% in June 2020
- Raised more than $335K for parks and wildlife, twice what was anticipated
- Reduced the one year recidivism rate to 17.3%
- Achieved an annual medicaid cost trend of -4%
- Reduced per capita Vehicle Miles Traveled by 7.5%, down to 8,600 per person
- Reduced premiums in the individual health insurance market by more than 20%
- Completed 94% of the short term work in our Greenhouse Gas Roadmap
- Kept more than 99% of the State’s licensed child care capacity throughout the pandemic
- 30 institutes of higher education adopted institutional equity plans
- Investigated more than 140 cold cases, nearly ten times the goal
- Implemented statewide universal access to at least 15 hours of preschool each week
- Financed nearly 10,000 new affordable housing units
- Reduced auto theft by 24% year over year
- Increased the childcare workforce by 11.7%
- Enrolled 98% of eligible Colorado workers in paid family and medical leave program
The Governor's Bold Five Priorities
At the beginning of Governor Polis’ second term, the Governor announced revised priorities for his administration known as the “Bold Five”. By reducing the cost of health care, expanding access to affordable housing and property tax relief, providing universal access to preschool, harnessing the economic and societal benefits of clean energy, and increasing public safety, we aim to ensure the economy works for everyone while preserving Colorado's unique way to live. The Reimagine State Government initiative will harness the opportunities and creativity of our State government in order to achieve these goals.
For more information on the Governor's Bold Five Priorities, visit the Governor's Dashboard at dashboard.colorado.gov.