Ritter Says Tax-cutting Ballot Initiatives Would Cripple Colorado
The Denver Post
Colorado business leaders and Gov. Bill Ritter warned Thursday that a trio of tax-cutting ballot initiatives could have a devastating effect on the state economy.
Proposition 101 and amendments 60 and 61 on the November ballot “would set Colorado back a generation and bring to a halt the pro-business environment we have all worked so hard to build,” Ritter said.
Marshaling opposition to the proposals was among the challenges issued by Ritter and business panelists at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s “State of the State” session.
The ballot proposals would cut at least $1 billion annually in state taxes, slash funding for local governments and school districts, roll back property taxes statewide and drastically limit government’s ability to construct buildings.
Supporters of the measures say they would force the government to operate more efficiently and cut bloated spending.
“It’s our general belief that the state of Colorado has enough money to spend,” said Marty Neilson, president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, which supports the measures. “They can spend more wisely, or even cut their spending.”
But if the tax-cutting measures are passed, “we will be going backwards as a state and economy – not just a step back, but we’ll be sliding backwards,” said panelist Mary Sullivan, an executive at commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis.
At the Thursday event, Ritter lauded the state legislature’s passage of bills that expand Colorado’s renewable-energy standard and mandate the shift from coal to natural gas for electricity generation.
“Our clean-energy and clean-tech sectors have grown 15 to 20 percent over the past year,” the Democratic governor said. “Clearly, this is our sweet spot. People in Washington, D.C., and other states are looking at us and saying, ‘How can we replicate the Colorado story?’ “
But Ritter said the state faces hurdles in recovering from the recession.
“Do we faces challenges? Absolutely,” he said. “Small businesses are still having trouble getting loans. Hiring isn’t picking up as fast as we’d like. Seeing what’s happened with (the loss of) Qwest, Coors and Frontier Airlines corporate headquarters has not been easy.”
Panelists said some federal regulatory measures could place a burden on businesses and slow Colorado’s economic recovery.
Bruce Wagner, president of Wagner Equipment Co., said new regulations on particulates from diesel-engine emissions “are going to increase the cost of doing business for a very small step forward from the emissions standpoint.”
A financial reform bill in Congress is troubling to Don Childears, president of the Colorado Bankers Association.
“We are quite concerned, and borrowers should be concerned too,” he said. “This will drive up costs and hassles for consumers in the state.”
Sullivan said capital and debt markets are opening up enough that there is too much money chasing too few properties for sale, creating a potentially unsustainable rise in prices.
Ritter said the state faces tough decisions on how to fund K-12 school budgets and public colleges.
“Clearly we need to come together and get serious about improving K-12 education,” he said. “Education is the best economic development tool we have.
“It holds the key to our competitiveness, to innovation, to technological advances.”
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