Posted on 17 May 2010.
By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
The Colorado business community is looking to November to regain stability after what some business groups say was an upsetting and volatile legislative session.
The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry’s (CACI) Senior Vice President, Dan Pilcher, said the business community has picked up the pieces and is focusing on opportunities to put in place a more business-friendly government come election day.
“The legislature is over and done with, so the focus now will be on November–who gets elected,” said Pilcher.
Tony Gagliardi, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said his members are also dedicated to creating what he considers to be a pro-business environment in Colorado in the future.
“We are going to be working hard to change things in November,” said Gagliardi.
“The business community believes that this is the worst legislative session that we have ever seen for small business and for business in general,” said Gagliardi. “It was not a pleasurable session and we look for better things to come.”
Pilcher, who has been watching the legislature for CACI since 1998, is equally dismayed, and said he believes that business was a target for the Democrats who were in charge of balancing the budget.
Attempts to reach several Democratic lawmakers Friday were unsuccessful.
“Without a doubt this has been the most difficult session in the last 12 years.” said Pilcher. “It became evident that they were going after business, and it would cost business more money. They wanted the money because they wanted to spend it.”
Pilcher was referring to $231 million that will be collected by the state over the next two years after the legislature rolled back an array of tax credits and exemptions for business. That figure doesn’t bode well with Pilcher, who says that it will simply hamper a much-needed economic recovery.
“We obviously don’t like that. We don’t think that’s good policy for businesses coming out of a recession,” said Pilcher.
Talks between the business community and the governor’s office began in December, before lawmakers convened in January over the governor’s proposal to eliminate the tax credits and exemptions, given to businesses as incentives. Both Pilcher and Gagliardi said that those talks were merely a prelude of things to come in the upcoming legislature—things they characterized as decidedly anti-business.
“What began was the creation of an anti -business climate, not just the actual dollars in taxes that business will pay–it was the questioning of everything in the tax code pertaining to businesses,” said Pilcher. “What we heard in the beginning was, ‘We need to look at these tax provisions to balance the budget,’ but as we went on we started hearing more and more of, ‘We need to look at all of these tax provisions.’ That really sent a message to the business community.”
Gagliardi said that there was a dynamic at play in the legislature that he found disconcerting.
“We were told that the tax bills wouldn’t take effect until July, and then the next thing you know, we were told on a Thursday afternoon, ‘Oh, by the way, these bills are being introduced Monday and they will go into effect March 1,’” said Gagliardi, who also said that the relationship between the business community and prevailing leadership was further eroded by the treatment of those in opposition by some lawmakers.
“We have always had respect for each other but the true colors were shown by the way witnesses were treated during testimony, particularly in the House Finance Committee when we were there until 2:30 in the morning on the tax bills and watched as our members were attacked at the table by certain representatives because they were opposing the bill,” said Gagliardi. “When you start seeing legislators having to apologize to witnesses for the way they were treated by other legislators on the committee, you know it’s bad.”
Overall, the business community is feeling anxious and nervous over what the future holds, particularly with the tax climate in Colorado—should the status quo in legislative and gubernatorial leadership remain in tact–say Pilcher and Gagliardi.
Pilcher said that CACI will begin examining the voting records of the incumbants who are up for re-election and will be conducting interviews and surveys with new candidates in anticipation of the November election of a governor, along with state House and Senate seats.
“We will then decide which candidates are pro-business and support them with our political action committee,” said Pilcher.
The NFIB will also be involved in a vetting process of its own and is determined not to have to relive another session like the one that adjourned this past Wednesday.
“Business was at the whim of the legislature,” said Gagliardi. “It was like that all session.”