Western Colorado is counting on governor to protect state’s economy
By Diane Schwenke
Job One for the state Legislature is to preserve and enhance Colorado’s quality of life, including our economic quality of life in Grand Junction and across the state, by creating a dynamic and robust jobs climate.
Yet this legislative session has been marked by bill after bill that will cost jobs, unfairly tax major Western Slope employers and keep businesses from locating or expanding in Colorado. Worse, we are seeing anti-jobs bills that use narrow ideology to reward politically favored special interests.
When the new Legislature was gaveled into session in January, we heard speeches from legislative leaders touting their commitment to job creation and economic growth. By the time the gavel falls this week, we may, in contrast, have seen the most anti-jobs array of bills to hit a governor’s desk in decades.
Colorado job creators are counting on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s reputation as a passionate advocate for jobs, and a veto pen full of ink, to keep our state on a positive, pro-growth path.
We are turning to the governor because, as Western Slope families and businesses know all too well, we’re not out of the economic woods, and these bills will drive us backward, not forward. With unemployment stubbornly above the state and national average at 9 percent, too many of our neighbors are struggling to find work. And when the Legislature puts a bull’s eye on employers, we worry that unemployment will go still higher.
Consider these, among many, of the anti-jobs, anti-consumer bills that are being pushed through the Legislature:
✔ Several bills unfairly and punitively targeted Colorado’s oil and gas industry — without guaranteeing one bit of enhanced environmental protection. For example, anyone who works at an energy company who wants to lend expertise by serving on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission would be prohibited from serving, something not required of any other commission member. Other bills would expand state bureaucracy, hike taxes and create taxpayer funded, politically motivated studies to blacken the eye of the energy industry.
✔ Ignoring a process in place to increase the use of renewable sources of energy by electric co-ops that serve rural Colorado, an ideologically driven bill would sharply and unnecessarily hike those requirements, dramatically increasing energy costs on rural Colorado families and businesses.
✔ Despite having tens of millions of dollars in strike funds on hand, labor unions want an unlimited ability to tap state unemployment funds to pay workers idled in the wake of union-initiated job actions. This bill would undo years of legal balance between management and labor that has worked well and kept the peace. Worse, it’s an open invitation for strikes to inconvenience Coloradans at major retail locations across the state.
We have seen wave after wave of legislation, often crafted with no conversation or input with the industries that will be affected, that undoes balanced, bipartisan and successful efforts of several governors — including Hickenlooper — to ensure that Colorado is better positioned than most states for economic growth.
These bills, and many others with similar motivations, do little but blacken Colorado’s reputation as a great place to do business, create jobs and raise a family.
The state’s hope to prevent deep and lasting damage rests with Gov. Hickenlooper. He has made the development of policy through consensus, dialogue and collaboration a hallmark of his governing style during the past two years.
The raft of anti-jobs bills heading to his desk is at odds with what the governor has stood for, and we hope that he continues his strong record on jobs and the economy by vetoing these bills. When he does, the nation will know that Colorado is still “open for business.”
Diane Schwenke is president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.