By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Gov. Bill Ritter told the state’s largest business organization Tuesday that education, innovation and manufacturing will be among the catalysts that push Colorado’s economy toward recovery.
Not everyone is convinced that Ritter has the right solutions for leading the Colorado economy forward, though, with Colorado Republican governor candidate Scott McInnis saying this month that Ritter has supported an “anti-jobs, big spending and tax raising agenda.”
Ritter was the featured speaker at the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industries’ (CACI) 44th annual meeting. During the speech to hundreds of business owners and CACI members, Ritter called Colorado one of the most business-friendly states in the country. He attributed Colorado’s pro-business culture to the state understanding “that making things and innovating new technologies are the keys to our economic future.”
To prove his point, Ritter pointed to Monday’s announcement that SMA Solar Technology — the world’s top maker of solar inverters — would be opening its first North American manufacturing facility in Denver. The German company joins other green-friendly international businesses like Vestas, RePower and Siemens that have decided to come to Colorado.
“We’ve got this entire ecosystem that’s acting like a magnet for new companies and new jobs,” he said in the speech. “We have the best research corridor in the world. We have unbelievable natural resources, and we have one of the most highly-skilled workforces in the country.”
Meanwhile, in a press release that came out last week, McInnis — one of the Republicans who will be challenging Ritter for the governorship in the 2010 election — said that boosting government spending while raising taxes and fees on businesses and families is at the heart of Ritter’s agenda.
“Big government breeds small ideas, but smaller government lets people put forth big ideas — and make those ideas a reality,” he said in a statement.
In Ritter’s speech, though, the governor pointed out that Colorado has the eighth-lowest corporate income tax in the nation. CNBC and Forbes.com have both ranked Colorado as one of the best states for business, he said.
New economic reality
Ritter acknowledged that the state is facing a “new economic reality.” An additional $250 million budget shortfall led to Ritter announcing Tuesday that state employees must take four additional furlough days. Ritter today will present his plan to close the massive shortfall, complete with increased cuts.
In light of the new economic reality, Ritter called for the creation of a New Colorado Partnership to strengthen collaboration among businesses, schools and colleges so “we can all succeed together.”
“Just as you are finding new ways to adapt and succeed in the new economic reality, so must state government,” Ritter said. “We have a rare opportunity to transform government into a more effective partner for every business, every school district and every college in Colorado. Together, we have a real opportunity to build a sustainable economic future for our children.”
Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, an attendee at Tuesday’s CACI meeting, said he appreciates Ritter talking about the new economic reality. The lawmaker, however, was critical about the way Ritter has run the economy in the past.
“Had we kept spending in check and not followed the path of out-of-control spending, we wouldn’t be where we are now,” he said. “But the bottom line is that we are where we are.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters