The state’s business leaders lashed out at Colorado lawmakers Wednesday over a slew of bills they are considering that they say could lead to job losses and business closures.
Representatives from such groups as the Colorado Realtors, the Colorado Association of Home Builders and the Colorado Farm Bureau said many of the bills are far too costly for businesses to afford, particularly after what the COVID-19 pandemic did to the state’s economy.
Some of those bills include measures to expand unemployment insurance benefits, mandate sick leave for all workers and give whistleblower protections to employees.
The business people, which included the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Club 20, said lawmakers promised to stick to passing the state’s budget and dealing with coronavirus-related measures when the Colorado Legislature reconvened in late May after taking a two-month hiatus because of the virus. Instead, they’ve gone far beyond that.
“During the interim period, we were explicitly and clearly told not to worry, that this Legislature was going to focus on the budget, schools and bills that are fast, friendly and free,” said Mike Kopp, president and chief executive officer of Colorado Concern, a business advocacy group. “We call on the Legislature, frankly, to be true to your word. Do what you told all of us you were going to do.”
The business experts said that because of the economic situation, numerous businesses are expected to be forced to close because they lost too much revenue during the shutdown and can’t afford to operate.
Adding more burdens on them would only cause more to close, they said.
Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction chamber, said she’s estimating that Mesa County could see as many as 20% of businesses shut down because of the economic situation. She said that during the Great Recession a decade ago, about 12% went under.
“The most vulnerable are the small businesses that are family owned that will be the ones to go first, and are least able to take on the additional burdens that we might see coming out of this Legislature,” she said.
But the business leaders didn’t just focus on measures the Legislature is considering, but also three possible ballot measures that could lead to higher taxes: a proposal to do away with the Gallagher Amendment that governs property taxes, and two proposed citizen’s initiatives. One would create a progressive state income tax rate, and the other establish a paid family and medical leave insurance program.
The Legislature is set to end this year’s session on Friday, but the businesses are asking them to stay longer to consider the business bills more closely.