Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If you don't like state leaders' budget decisions, perhaps you can do better

It's easy to criticize. Perhaps that's why so many people turn criticism into a hobby, particularly criticism of the government and politicians. Of course coming up with real solutions is tougher, and it's especially hard because everyday people typically don't have access to the information they would need to create meaningful public-policy recommendations.

Well, some clever folks at a group called Engaged Public are trying to chip away at that information gap. They've created the Backseat Budgeter, an online tool they describe as follows:

"Backseat Budgeter is a simulation tool that enables you to experience for yourself what it is like to manage a public budget. Elected officials ultimately are in charge, but with Backseat Budgeter you can see the effects of your decisions, gain a better understanding of the challenges officials face, and appreciate the complexities of the public budgeting process.

"Furthermore, the choices you make about the budget will be shared with public officials. You can let them know if you think they should step on the gas, put the brakes on spending or change direction altogether."

It's a pretty neat experience to try to implement your values in the form of a balanced state budget, taking into account all the competing priorities. At CCLP, our project called the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute advocates for budget policies that provide adequate revenue, are equitable in the sources of revenue and are sustainable through economic cycles. Check CCLP's website for our analysis of state budget issues.

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