In this Capitol Report:
Key Business Issues from Polis’ State of the State
Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday delivered his third State of the State address in the House Chamber, touching on COVID-19 relief and legislative priorities for the 2021 session. He also covered several issues of importance to the business community, from tax policies to transportation to health care.
The most surprising development from the governor’s speech was his call to reduce the business personal property tax, a longtime request of the Colorado business community. The tax applies to most commercial, industrial and agricultural property that is used in the production of income for a business.
“This year I propose we eliminate the business personal property tax for tens of thousands of small businesses, reducing paperwork and protecting them from onerous tax requirements,” Polis said. “This will save small businesses time and money and let them focus on what matters — their customers, their services, and their products.”
While a reduction in the business personal property tax would be welcome news for the business community, the details of the proposal are unclear – particularly regarding any tax breaks and “loopholes” that would be eliminated in order to pay for it. As the Colorado Chamber’s Loren Furman told the Denver Business Journal, any reduction in the business personal property tax would be counterbalanced by reductions in other tax breaks, leaving some businesses worse off than before.
The governor also focused heavily on transportation, indicating “shovel-ready” projects that he hopes will boost the state economy. The business community has called for increased funding for transportation for many years, but substantial funding efforts have not been successful thus far.
“My budget request moves forward vital projects, starting with much-needed repairs on roads across Colorado — from the Eisenhower Tunnel to the rural roads that our farmers and ranchers rely on.” Polis said.
Republican House Minority Leader Hugh McKean expressed hesitation at the governor’s emphasis on the “modernization” of transportation, particularly due to the lack of specifics in Polis’ address.
“If that means that we turn taxes into fees, I’m not sure the voters of Colorado will agree with that,” he said.
With the pandemic at the forefront of the governor’s speech, so was the topic of health care – from vaccine distribution to telehealth to legislative priorities. The governor only briefly mentioned his proposal for a public option in Colorado, but he specifically endorsed a bill to be filed this session by Sen. Jaquez Lewis, Sen, Gonzales, Rep. Caraveo and Rep. Kennedy to reduce prescription drug costs.
The governor’s State of the State address underscored bipartisanship and the need to support the business community through these challenging economic times. The Colorado Chamber will continue to provide updates on the latest legislation at the capitol this session.
House and Senate (Re)-Opening Day Speeches: What Should Businesses Expect this Session?
The General Assembly reconvened the 2021 session on Tuesday, and legislative leadership from both parties addressed their respective chambers to lay out their priorities.
In the House Chamber, Speaker Alec Garnett focused his message on unity and recovery, calling for bipartisanship in order to provide relief to small businesses and individuals across the state.
“Each of us, collectively, has an opportunity to be a part of something meaningful here…” the Speaker said. “But we won’t get far if we go at it alone, if we fixate on the differences between us instead of focusing on all the things that bring us together.”
The Speaker’s identified public health and economic recovery as his top legislative priorities this session. He also highlighted how the pandemic has impacted different businesses, sectors, individuals, and regions of the state – and the economic disparities between certain groups.
Transportation took a front seat in Speaker Garnett’s address and he emphasized his commitment to pass meaningful investments in infrastructure this year.
“I’m not the first Speaker in recent memory to stand here and say this will be the year we get transportation done,” he said. “But with your help and hard work, I’m determined to be the last.”
The Speaker also centered on health care accessibility and inequities, prioritizing an effort to reduce prescription costs in the state.
House Minority Leader Hugh McKean’s opening day speech covered many of the same issues from a different perspective – from transportation to economic recovery.
“Coming to work each day in the role of the minority means that the majority of our time we play defense. Defense against attacks on our freedoms, defense against more and more pressure brought to bear on our families and their paychecks. Defense against the laundry list of things government can do but often without the debate about what it should do.”
McKean emphasized the importance of limited government and free enterprise to guide the state’s economic relief efforts. He applauded the Five Star Program, an initiative started by the Grand Junction Chamber in conjunction with local public health authorities, as an example of how government should approach recovery.
“It is a unique example of how we can trust our citizens to do their best and protect their own interests, a creative way to enable a high level of protection for customers and employees and make it possible for families to put food on the table,” McKean said.
Like Speaker Garnett, transportation was also at the forefront of the Minority Leader’s address. McKean, however, expressed concern about the details of any proposals from the majority party.
“If we play tricks with the gas tax and a ‘gas fee’ we might be able to solve the transportation issues in a way not accomplished in the last couple of decades, but we might fail in the most important job we all have, to live up to the trust voters have placed in us,” McKean said. “It’s the devil in the details that gives us pause and it’s the reality of what we need that makes our voices rise with caution.”
Minority Leader McKean also touched on the issue of energy, warning that efforts by Democrats towards electrification could result in poor energy reliability and affordability going forward.
Senate President Leroy Garcia called for coming together among the toxic political environment and tribalism to focus on recovery from the pandemic.
“We must stop the bleeding. We must urgently respond to the needs of our state: rescuing Main Street from financial ruin, providing relief to anxious tenants in need of next month’s rent, replenishing community resources that serve the weary and jobless,” he said.
He also emphasized health care and environmental issues as a component in recovery and shaping the future of Colorado.
“We will rescue the planet we put in peril – utilizing clean energy to create jobs and rid our skies of toxic pollution,” Garcia said. “We will build a health care system that is people-focused rather than profit-hungry and ensure that everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, has access to the medicine they need.”
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert opened his address by affirming that the Colorado General Assembly acted swiftly to address COVID-19 relief when the U.S. Congress was at an impasse. He also took a bipartisan tone, noting that both parties seem in agreement on many central issues of economic recovery and relief.
But with Congress now prepared to take action to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package, Holbert said that the General Assembly should wait before passing a large stimulus at the state level.
“Let’s wait until we actually have those dollars before we start spending,” he said. “I’ve heard the phrase, don’t count your chickens until you’re until they’re hatched. Let’s make sure we even have eggs, before we count the eggs before they become chickens.”
Minority Leader Holbert also focused on the limits on executive power, questioning how much authority should be granted to the governor in a declared disaster. He suggested incorporating the legislative branch to weigh in on executive orders to provide oversight.
Finally, he emphasized the minority party’s priority of getting government out of the way to foster economic recovery.
“Senate Republicans are not asking for more government, not asking for the government to continue to tell the people of Colorado what they can’t do,” Holbert said. “What we’re here to do is find ways that we can get beyond this pandemic, beyond COVID-19.”
Award-Winning Diversity Equity & Inclusion Program Offered to Colorado Businesses
Are you ready to talk about inclusion in your organization? Let Colorado REACH help you guide the conversation.…
The Colorado Chamber is proud to partner with Colorado REACH to offer members of the Colorado Chamber an opportunity to experience BREAKING ICE—the award-winning diversity equity and inclusion program for business.
Through a series of dynamic scenes, audiences explore how systemic inequities, implicit biases and common misperceptions show up in relationships and in the workplace. The performance is followed by facilitated break outs.
Chamber Members are invited to register themselves and their teams for one of three days (space is limited). Register here or contact Lauren Schwartz at the Chamber to learn how your company can get involved: (303) 866-9643
Three Dates to Choose From:
Thursday, February 25
3-4:30 p.m. REGISTER HERE
Thursday, March 25
3-4:30 p.m. REGISTER HERE
Thursday, April 22
3-4:30 p.m. REGISTER HERE