A report from the Common Sense Institute, a nonpartisan group that advocates for a free market, shows potential roadblocks on Colorado’s path to economic recovery.

The findings were discussed in a Zoom press conference with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. Local economic leaders like Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, are worried by the numbers.

“Our small businesses are hurting,” Schwenke said. “To the Legislature, as we move forward with the rest of the session: first, do no harm — and then after that, contemplate ways to help our small businesses weather a storm that has not yet passed.”

From January to December 2020 Colorado lost 150,000 jobs, while small businesses saw revenue plummet by 29.5% between January 2020 and Feb. 10, 2021, according to the report.

Schwenke and the other speakers had a sense of urgency added to their messaging on Tuesday.

Colorado was a national leader in recovery from the Great Recession, many speakers said. However, in their view, that may not happen again because of two reasons: COVID-19 restrictions already limit revenue, and businesses carry a larger financial burden from state laws. According to the CSI report, new fees and taxes from bills dating back to 2018 could soon run as high as $1.8 billion annually for the private sector.

Tuesday’s speakers also noted legislation such as Proposition 118, which requires workers and most employers to pay into a state fund for paid family and medical leave.

Dave Davia, executive vice president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Mechanical Contractors Association, also singled out the recently introduced Protecting Opportunities And Workers’ Rights Act, known as the POWR Act, which would allow employment discrimination claims to be brought to court. Davia called it unnecessary.

“I think it’s time we take a timeout and let some of these five years worth of previous discriminatory practice bills come to fruition and full implementation before adding another layer,” he said.

Proponents of legislation such as Prop 118 and POWR say these can close social inequity gaps.

But the speakers reiterated their belief that businesses need to be at the top of legislator’s minds.

“It’s not an either or, it’s a prioritization,” Schwenke said. “And right now, the prioritization has to be on job creation and the economy.”