Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hickenlooper wants red-tape legislation this session

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Friday he hoped legislation will be produced this session to reduce "red tape" that clutters Colorado business performance.

Hickenlooper talked to reporters before meeting with about 200 business and economic development types at The Cable Center on the University of Denver campus, the last stop on a 1,000-mile tour of the state to gather ideas about what state government should do to grow its business and industry.

He ruled out tax reform this year, saying any remaking of the state tax code is too complex to accomplish soon. He said, too, that while touring the state, he found no one much interested in raising taxes now, although one participant in the meeting suggested higher taxes are inevitable if Hickenlooper's administration is serious about addressing state budget shortfalls.

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy this week filed new paperwork calling for a statewide vote on a variety of tax increases, according to the Denver Post, but the initiatives proposed by the group have a long way to go before they are approved for the 2011 ballot.

Onerous state regulations that limit, license and sometimes fine businesses throughout Colorado --usually lumped together by Hickenlooper under the moniker "red tape" -- are more likely to be addressed by lawmakers this year, the governor said.

Without being specific, he has made reducing and eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to doing business in Colorado a favorite element of his courtship of business and bipartisan support for the "bottom-up" region-based economic development plan that is the goal of the meetings like the one held Friday.

Like tax reform, the development strategy, will not be addressed by this legislature because it won't be produced until mid or the end of May, which is after the legislature adjourns. Still the crowd, drawn from metro-Denver counties including Clear Creek and Gilpin on the western edge of the region, was delighted to offer suggestions to foster statewide business prosperty.

When taxes were mentioned, they usually were accompanied by the descriptors "fair" and "low." One Jefferson County participant suggested recruiting a nuclear power plant to the state. And Hickenlooper even suggested creating a state venture-capital fund that would serve only Colorado businesses and be operated purely on a highest-rate-of-return standard.

None of that wishing and hoping will create a single job tomorrow, which is the ultimate goal of any economic development plan. But the "attitude" in the room might.

Dwayne Romero, the governor's newly appointed economic-development director, suggested that job creation is accomplished one job and one small business at a time. Confidence in Colorado's ability to recover from economic setbacks, he said, will drive those necessary new hires.

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