Reimagine State Government

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.

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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

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 recent 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.

With this agreement, our continued focus on equity, and many new benefits coming into effect in July of 2022, we expect to see employee engagement scores increase over time, towards our goal of 77% by 2025.

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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 can only be 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 more than 40 facilities statewide, across two departments, that house and care for people. The Governor's Office meets weekly with the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services to discuss data trends, updates in the pandemic, and to address rising concerns.

We know our diligence and work has helped to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 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. The Department of Corrections and the Division of Youth Services in the Department of Human Services both publish public COVID-19 data dashboards. And most recently, according to a September 2021 Prison Policy Project report, Colorado is the 8th best state in the country for inmate vaccination rates.


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 expect to be able to find permanent budget reductions as a result of our efforts in a few years. The State is also working to reduce total square footage, including owned property, through the Office of the State Architect’s published strategic office space plan.

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Responsibly Manage the State Budget

Responsibly manage the State's budget to address the revenue and workload impacts of the COVID-19 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 reductions in revenue from the economic recession caused by the global pandemic. Through strong leadership and fiscally responsible policies, Colorado has managed this temporary reduction in revenue, and is being strategic about making future investments that will put the State on a good fiscal footing for years to come.

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. For FY 2022-23, the Governor has 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 increased its state reserves by 30% since the Governor took office, and the Governor has proposed further investments to double the reserve by FY 2022-23, as shown in the second chart below.


Increase Access to Virtual Services

It is crucial that we ensure government services are available to anyone, anywhere, anytime they are needed. State workers have been 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 also became more important than ever before.

Through strategic problem solving, a team of interagency State employees was able to increase digital government services by identifying opportunities to expand the number of online service offerings, while also expanding access to those services across Colorado. Nearly 150,000 of the transactions that occurred last year were converted from in-person to virtual. Moving forward, the State is focusing on reaching the ambitious goal of providing as close to 100% of our services virtually as possible, and believe we will accomplish this goal by 2026.

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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. In FY 2021, State agencies continued to achieve over half of their performance goals, even while responding to a global pandemic, and adopting the operational changes outlined above. 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 during FY 2021:

  • Created or retained more than 10,200 jobs statewide
  • 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


The Governor's Bold Four Priorities

Governor Polis is focused on bringing down the high cost of living in our state and creating a Colorado where everyone has an opportunity to succeed. By providing free full-day kindergarten for every Colorado student and expanding access to preschool, reducing the cost of health care, and harnessing the economic and societal benefits of clean energy, we can ensure our economy works for everyone while preserving Colorado's unique way of life. The reimagine state government initiative will harness the opportunities and creativity of our State government to help achieve these goals.


For more information on the Governor's Bold Four Priorities, visit the Governor's Dashboard at dashboard.colorado.gov.