New Backseat Budgeter Enables Public to Drive State Budget, Test Impacts of 2010 Ballot Initiatives

Note to Reporters: The Backseat Budgeter is available at

Colorado State University, in collaboration with Engaged Public, a public policy strategy firm, today unveiled an updated edition of Backseat Budgeter, which is an interactive budget simulation tool that enables Coloradans to try their hand at balancing the 2011 state budget.

In addition to experimenting with aspects of the state budget, as voters prepare for the upcoming election, Backseat Budgeter allows them to evaluate the impact of three tax-related ballot initiatives on the state’s budget. While elected officials ultimately make these decisions, Backseat Budgeter provides residents the opportunity to better understand the challenges and complexities of the public budgeting process to make more informed decisions.

“The updated version of Backseat Budgeter allows Colorado residents to see for themselves the impact of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. After the election, the site will be updated to reflect new choices about our fiscal future,” said Chris Adams, president of Engaged Public, developer of the online tool.

Backseat Budgeter incorporates the same restrictions legislators face – constitutional laws such as TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and Amendment 23, the required increase for K-12 education spending. If a Backseat Budgeter user “violates” one of these laws, they are confronted with a flashing warning telling them that voters must approve their choice.

The Colorado version of Backseat Budgeter is a public service provided by Engaged Public in collaboration with Colorado State University’s Bighorn Leadership Development Program.

Lou Swanson, vice president for Colorado State University’s Office of Engagement, sees the collaboration as a benefit. “We are always interested in partnerships that foster public participation and provide research-based information as a starting point for discussions,” Swanson said.

“The Backseat Budgeter was initially conceived as an educational tool designed to educate participants in the Bighorn Leadership Program about Colorado’s budget and to keep alumni engaged and up-to-date on current budget issues,” said Brenda Morrison, managing director of Engaged Public and director of the Bighorn Leadership Program.

Engaged Public is a public policy strategy firm specializing in policy and leadership development, community engagement and facilitation. Its purpose is to provide services to create better public policy.

The mission of the Bighorn Leadership Development Program, a program of the Office of the Vice President for Engagement at Colorado State, is to ensure that Colorado continues to have strong public leadership and provide its participants the opportunity to develop the skills that are necessary to succeed in the public sphere. The program has more than 300 alumni, many of whom have gone on to become Colorado legislators, city council members and leaders of community organizations. More information about the program is available at

The Colorado version of Backseat Budgeter is funded by a grant from The Colorado Health Foundation. The Colorado Health Foundation works to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation by investing in grants and initiatives to health-related nonprofits that focus on increasing the number of Coloradans with health insurance, ensuring they have access to quality, coordinated care and encouraging healthy living. For more information, go to