Ritter pushes stimulus plan for small businesses

Gov. Bill Ritter told lawmakers Thursday he plans to help bolster the small business community by committing $2.5 million to improve small businesses’ access to the credit markets.

“We’re thinking about ways we can leverage this money … to really help small businesses,” Ritter told the Joint Budget Committee, saying he will focus on “how we ensure that people owning small businesses … get access to capital sufficient to stay in business or generate greater business.”

Ritter said roughly half of the state’s workers are employed by businesses with 50 or fewer employees, making small business “the backbone” of Colorado’s economy. He said he expects some of his small-business stimulus package to flow through a revolving loan fund.

Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, said most of her colleagues on the budget panel are generally supportive of helping the state’s small businesses.

“Where we had a little hesitation was: How much would $2.5 million … really do or help, or how far would it go?” she said.

At least one lawmaker on the Joint Budget Committee, however, questioned the governor’s small business initiative.

Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, said he understands the governor’s desire to shore up small businesses but said a stimulus might not be the best way to use the state’s diminished resources during an economic downturn.

“Right now, that scares me, because I think we have bridges that are falling apart, roads that need to be repaired. … There are a lot of things in our state that we need, and we’re not getting to,” Tapia said. “I understand we need to move our economy. I’m not sure it’s state government’s role to do that.”

The governor outlined his small-business stimulus proposal as he formally presented to the Joint Budget Committee his proposed $19.2 billion budget, which includes:

•  $77 million for an emergency reserve fund.

•  $10.6 million for decreasing the state’s recidivism rate.

•  $4.9 million to encourage job creation and bolster state industries, including the emerging renewable-energy sector.

The Joint Budget Committee will continue to probe the governor’s proposed budget, which will take effect in July, during the remainder of this year and into the 2009 legislative session.


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