By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Scott McInnis, Republican candidate for governor, continued to slam Democrat rival Mayor John Hickenlooper Monday for not taking a stance on 13 controversial bills that would suspend or eliminate a series of tax exemptions and credits.
During an appearance at the Denver Pepsi Bottling Group, McInnis said the series of bills that would tax goods like soda and Amazon purchases would cremate, not create, jobs. McInnis used Monday’s speech to blast Hickenlooper, his main rival for the governorship, for not joining him in denouncing the bills.
“There is already a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers opposed to these tax hikes — and a lot of them passed by one vote,” McInnis said. “The Denver Mayor surely could have gotten one more Democrat vote to kill these tax increases. It is a shame that he wasn’t willing to walk across the street in Denver from his office to the Capitol to stand up for jobs, even in his own city, such as those at the Pepsi Bottling Group.”
A Hickenlooper spokesman said that the mayor isn’t commenting on the series of bills because he understands how difficult of a job lawmakers have at the State Capitol, and that weighing in on the bills would only make that job more difficult. The spokesman said Hickenlooper will comment on the bills after the legislative session ends on May 12.
Tour of Colorado
Monday’s appearance at the Denver Pepsi Bottling Group wrapped up a three-day tour for McInnis in which he staged press conferences at sites that would be impacted by the potential taxes. Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said the move was an effort to “put a face on a horrible economic policy.”
Because he was appearing at a Pepsi bottling plant, McInnis spoke specifically to a bill that would get rid of the tax exemption for candy and soda. Levying the 2.9-percent state sales tax on the goods is expected to give the state $3.58 million more to work with this fiscal year, and provide $17.9 million in additional revenue the following year. Next year’s state budget is facing a billion-dollar-plus shortfall.
Chris Harr, vice president and general manager of the Colorado Market Unit for the Pepsi Bottling Group, said sales for the company have already been soft and that “it’s the worst possible time to be increasing the cost of doing business.”
“Higher taxes mean lower revenue, and increased consumer prices,” he said. “A higher tax will hurt jobs not only among the direct suppliers, but the retailers and vending operators, many of whom are small business owners who operate on razor-thin margins.”
Harr told the Denver Daily News that the future of jobs at his bottling pant would depend on whether customers would be willing to pay that extra tax.
But as Gov. Bill Ritter’s office pointed out earlier this month, 14 other states tax candy, but not groceries, while 15 states tax all food, including soda and candy. A 2.9-percent sales tax on a $1 can of soda would increase the price by $.3.
Tax bills to the House
The Colorado Senate last week approved the candy and soda tax, as well as eight other so-called tax increases, last week. Democrats say that they are showing the leadership that is necessary in times of fiscal crisis, while Republicans claim the 13 bills will hurt, not help, the economy.
An alternative GOP budget balancing plan that McInnis supports — which includes a .25-percent reduction in state payroll spending for the current fiscal year, and a 4.4-percent reduction for next fiscal year — was slammed by Ritter’s office as looking like something that the lawmakers wrote on the back of a cocktail napkin without much thought.
It’s now up to the House to approve the nine bills that the Senate passed last week.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters