By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Leaders of the Democrat-controlled Statehouse Tuesday quickly became defensive after a report was released stating that Colorado is not expanding its competitiveness.
The fifth annual Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation report finds that while Colorado continues to be a competitive state in creating jobs and “better lives for our citizens,” the state’s long-term success remains uncertain.
“While Colorado’s short-term future remains bright, our long-term vision of our state will have the change,” states the report.
Challenges mentioned in the report include:
* Ranked 47th for state and local higher education support per full-time student;
* Ranked 47th for student/teacher ratio in public elementary and secondary schools;
* Ranked 29th in high school graduation rates;
* Eighth-highest for local government share of total tax burden, while Colorado ranks 10th-lowest in state tax revenue per capita;
* Gross domestic product is down from eighth to 12th;
* Per capita income down from eighth to 13th, and;
* Export dollars per capita down from 33rd to 45th.
“For many years the Metro Denver region has sought to become a world-class city. This vision has spawned innovation, investment, and an alignment between tax policy and a common vision,” said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver EDC. “Nonetheless, there are numerous future initiatives that continue to pose a threat to the pillars of our economy — roads, education, care of the indigent, and public safety.”
In order for Colorado to be successful and competitive in the long run, the state must have a healthy, educated workforce; invest appropriately in infrastructure; create jobs through research and development; and expand its markets, the report states.
Dems defend policy moves
Democrats — who have been working for the past three years to create a more competitive Colorado — quickly defended their policy moves.
“Thanks to our innovative ideas for the last several years, we are leading Colorado toward a speedy recovery, and proving that Colorado is the best place for workers and small businesses,” said Senate President Brandon Shaffer, of Longmont. “Even though families are struggling right now, and even though this report shows many areas to improve, we will continue to work to build a 21st century workforce in this state.”
“This report proves what we already know and what we have been fighting for: we need to support education for our children, the health of our workers, and innovative ways to create jobs, if we want to remain competitive nationally,” said Senate Majority Leader John Morse of Colorado Springs. “It’s too bad not everyone at the Capitol realizes how important these things are to Colorado’s recovery and strength.”
The report also highlighted several achievements for Colorado, including:
* No. 1 in highest ACT/SAT scores per 1,000 high school graduates;
* Nation’s lowest obesity rate;
* Second in economic outlook;
* Second for adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher;
* Third in Small Business Innovation research grants;
* Third in venture capital per $1,000 of state gross domestic product;
* Fourth for initial public offerings;
* Fourth for cost of doing business;
* Fifth in number of new companies created per 1,000 employees;
* Fifth for annual population growth;
* Seventh for entrepreneurial activity;
* Eighth for science and engineering doctorate degrees; and
* Ninth in employment growth.
To address some of the concerns, the report calls for fiscal reform, including re-thinking restrictive constitutional tax and spend mandates set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
“Colorado’s problems are not insurmountable,” states the report. “But to overcome a number of these challenges and to increase our competitiveness in a fast-moving economy, we must understand that a Gordian knot exists in Colorado’s constitution that makes governing a challenge and reallocation of state funding virtually impossible.”
An initiative drive — supported by Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter — is in the works for 2011 to ease certain tax and spending mandates.
Meanwhile, opponents say without TABOR, Colorado’s budget would be in even worse shape.
They say TABOR protected the state from excessive spending in boon years.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters