By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The three main gubernatorial candidates got down to business yesterday during a debate sponsored by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the state chamber of commerce.
The Denver debate focused on business issues and started with American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo slamming Democrat John Hickenlooper for increasing fees and taxes as Denver mayor. Tancredo said the key to getting a state out of a recession is cutting taxes and not raising fees, and positioned Hickenlooper as an anti-business candidate who would do the opposite of what is needed if elected governor.
Hickenlooper, however, pointed out the ways he “cut red tape” for the business community while mayor. Hickenlooper reduced the time it takes to get a building permit by about 30 percent and said as mayor he “increased fees very modestly.” Additionally, Denver voters approved the measures in 2004 and 2006 that raised taxes by about $290 million by a wide margin.
Hickenlooper pointed to his experience opening the Wynkoop Brewing Company, which revitalized lower downtown, as proof that he knows how to help the business community. He said raising taxes is off the table during a recession.
“We’ve got to define Colorado as a pro-business state,” said Hickenlooper.
For his part, Republican candidate Dan Maes said the state must reduce government regulations and taxes to help the business community.
The debate then turned to the so-called “dirty dozen,” a series of bills passed last legislative session that eliminated or suspended numerous tax credits and exemptions for the business community.
Maes said if elected governor he would immediately repeal the bills, while Hickenlooper said he would repeal the measures as quickly as possible. Hickenlooper said the reality of the budget would make it hard to repeal the exemptions within the first year, but promised if elected to work with the business community to see what to repeal first.
Tancredo followed up by saying that he doubted Hickenlooper would look to repeal the “dirty dozen,” and said cutting taxes would be his first action if elected.
Tancredo and Maes both came out strong against unionization in Colorado. Tancredo promised to confront the public employee and teacher unions “head on” because he believes they are hurting Colorado’s business community recover from the recession.
“Do you know of anyone who pays union dues so they can work more or get paid less?” said Tancredo. “Of course not, that’s now what a union is all about.”
Hickenlooper said as mayor he resisted a push for an increase of unionization. But Hickenlooper added that it’s important to “try to get everybody working together” and that it’s important, for instance, to have “teachers at the table” in some way.
Maes pointed to his campaign history as proof that he isn’t afraid to take on the big names, in this case unions, to get them to focus on what’s important.
Throughout the debate Tancredo attacked Hickenlooper, Hickenlooper cited his business background, and Maes positioned himself as the people’s choice.
Tancredo started the debate on an awkward note with a joke that was greeted with noticeable shock and silence. After being introduced as “everyone’s favorite border patrol guard,” Tancredo quipped that he is usually introduced with the following line: “If your dinner arrives late or cold, you can blame the next person I’m bringing up here because when he walked into the room, we lost all the wait staff and all the kitchen help.”
However, illegal immigration was not discussed at yesterday’s debate.