By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Republicans, who now control the state House, are making reinstating tax breaks and incentives eliminated by Democrats this year a priority.
But Democrats ask where the estimated $140 million is going to come from? The state is facing a budget shortfall of at least $1.2 billion, meaning members of the powerful Joint Budget Committee will have their work cut out for them making cuts.
Newly appointed Republican JBC member, Rep.-elect Jon J. Becker of Fort Morgan, acknowledged on Friday that the “great question” is how to roll back the tax cuts and incentives while also balancing the budget in a bipartisan manner.
Each side of the aisle will have an equal say on the JBC, with the committee now becoming a 3-3 equal membership.
The question is how the committee is going to be able to agree on reinstating those tax breaks if other general fund cuts are necessary? Education, including K-12 and higher education, which has already taken a 6-percent across-the-board cut and is estimated to be $92 million short of what is needed to cover inflation and enrollment increases, and another $365 million short of full funding, is the likely target — again.
Becker, however, says rolling back the tax cuts and incentives will ultimately improve Colorado’s economy in the long run, thus eventually preserving and boosting such core government services as education.
“If you look at what we’re hoping as you roll those back, your economy is moving forward faster than you’re rolling those back,” he said. “Ideally, that’s what you need to look at in reducing taxes and fees, ideally, in theory, and it has worked before, it actually creates more capital spending for businesses and puts more money in the pockets of consumers and adds the confidence to business to start spending capital and hiring.”
But veteran JBC member Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, says Republicans are governing in talking points, not reality. He points out that while it is important to have a positive business climate, Colorado already ranks among the top states in the nation for having a business-friendly environment.
“The sad thing is that now that it looks like they’re going to be in the majority, they’re still not being responsible in governing,” said Ferrandino. “They’re still governing in talking points and not governing in reality.”
Ferrandino says if Republicans roll back the tax cuts and incentives that were eliminated this year, lawmakers will have to further cut education. He points out that education is regarded as one of the greatest economic drivers.
“The question is, do they want to give back special interest tax breaks to hurt K-12 education, increase class sizes and hurt affordability for higher education?” asked Ferrandino.