Accountable USA - Colorado

Like other states with revenue restrictions (TABOR or Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, in this case), Colorado has to rely on local governments to provide the majority of subsidies in its major economic development deals. Local subsidies dominated, for example, the stadium deals Denver gave to the Rockies and the Broncos, which were financed by city sales tax increases. The deal given to the United States Olympic Committee for its headquarters and training center involved some state Strategic Fund money, but the vast majority of funding came from the city of Colorado Springs. Localities have also been the main source of subsidies to wind energy company Vestas for various production facilities in the state. Colorado also allows municipalities to use tax increment financing (TIF) to subsidize new development. In general, Colorado has not invested large amounts of state funds in job subsidies, but in recent years it has enacted a few potentially costly credits for job creation. Colorado’s Enterprise Zone (EZ) Program, one of its largest economic development expenditures, is rapidly approaching $70 million per year. Another large economic development expense has been the discretionary subsidies awarded via the Strategic Fund and the Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit (JGITC). Oil and Gas Ad Valorem Tax Credit, at almost $300 million a year, is one of the largest industry-specific tax expenditures for the state. 




Corporate misconduct: Results page for Colorado in Violation Tracker

Subsidy deals: Results page for Colorado in Subsidy Tracker (see also: mega-deals)

Tax revenue loss: Results page for Colorado in Tax Break Tracker

Disclosure enforcement: Colorado GASB 77 Roadmap



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Key Subsidy Programs

Subsidy Program Recent Annual
Online Recipient
Recipient Disclosure
Job-Quality Score**
Enforcement Score***

Oil and Gas Ad Valorem Tax Credit

$271.8 million (2018)

Enterprise Zone Program

designated areas in which companies may qualify for up to nine different tax credits and other abatements/exemptions

$69.1 million (2018)

Advanced Industries Accelerator Program

Various grants to support the early development of innovative firms 

$12.2 million (2018)

Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit

corporate income tax credits worth up to 50% of the employer’s portion of federal social security tax withholding for new jobs

$6.9 million (2018)

Strategic Funds (Incentive + Initiative)

deal-closing fund that provides cash grants of up to $5,000 per job to companies that hire new employees

$4.9 million (2018)

* The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Show Us the Subsidized Jobs (January 2014).

** The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Money for Something (December 2011).

*** The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Money-Back Guarantees for Taxpayers (January 2012).

Major Subsidy Deals

Colorado Rockies (1990) and Denver Broncos (1998)

After a year-long lobbying campaign by the Colorado Baseball Commission, 54 percent of Denver residents voted in 1990 for a citywide sales tax increase to subsidize a new stadium for a hoped-for Major League expansion team. Denver did land a team, later named the Rockies, and taxpayers ended up paying about three-quarters of the $215 million cost for what became Coors Field.  This apparently inspired Pat Bowlen, owner of the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, to push for a new publicly financed stadium for his team. Critics saw the proposal as a bailout for Bowlen’s poor business decisions.

Nonetheless, in 1998 residents of the Denver area approved a plan to extend the tax increases enacted for the ballpark to finance three-quarters of the cost of a new $360 million Broncos stadium. Despite widespread public support for preserving the Mile High Stadium name of the Broncos’ old venue, the team was given permission in 2001 to sell naming rights to Invesco Funds Group for about $120 million, with half the proceeds going to the team and half to the public. (Key sources)

U.S. Olympic Committee (2009)

In 2009 the city of Colorado Springs consented to a complicated deal in which it would borrow more than $30 million to provide the main financing for a package worth some $40 million to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and a dozen Olympic national governing bodies from leaving town. The city was to raise the money by issuing COPS (certificates of participation), a lease-finance instrument similar to bonds. However, COPS do not constitute a long-term obligation for the issuer and thus do not require voter approval under Colorado law. With the proceeds, the city would spend $21.5 million to purchase and furnish five floors of a new downtown headquarters building to be leased for a token amount to the USOC, which agreed to stay in Colorado Springs for at least another 30 years.

The city also agreed to pay $9.5 million of the $16 million cost of renovating the Olympic Training Center, which would also house the national governing bodies. The chairman and president of LandCo Equity Partners, the developer of the building containing the new USOC headquarters, were indicted for securities fraud and theft in November 2009. The new USOC offices opened in May 2010. (Key sources)

Walmart in Colorado

  • At least 4 Wal-Mart locations have received subsidies worth about $8.8 million in Colorado.
  • At least 9 Wal-Mart locations in Colorado have challenged their property tax assessment, recouping about $718,000.
  • Many Wal-Mart workers are ineligible for health coverage from their employer or choose not to purchase what is available, because it is too expensive or too limited in scope. These workers often turn to taxpayer-funded health programs such as Medicaid. Colorado is among those states that have not disclosed data on the employers with the most workers or their dependents enrolled in such programs.
  • Wal-Mart receives about $3.6 million a year from a state policy that allows retailers to keep a portion of the sales tax they collect from customers.

For more information, see the Colorado page of Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch.