Colorado lawmakers question need for state stimulus package
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to spend $5 million to boost Colorado’s economy got a frosty reception Thursday from lawmakers who complained it was short on specifics and probably too small to do any good. They also questioned whether the state needs its own plan since Congress just passed one worth $700 billion whose success is far from proven.
Ritter told the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, which sets the state’s spending priorities, that he wants to put aside $2.5 million to help small businesses get credit and another $2.5 million for job training at community colleges.
Committee members were skeptical.
“It has that sense of the U.S. bailout type of a situation,” said Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo. “With that you have winners and losers and I don’t know how you define these winners and losers. For $2.5 million, that’s like one company, possibly.”
House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, said the best thing Ritter could do is remove barriers to oil and gas development, one of the state’s biggest industries, and allow taxpayers to keep $120 million in property taxes that the governor is using to help local school districts.
“The government doesn’t create jobs. His plan is to pick which businesses will succeed and which businesses will fail,” May said.
Ritter told the lawmakers they were focusing on only a narrow part of his economic plan. He said it builds on a program that has been in place the past two years after the state devoted millions of dollars to job development. The incentive plan could include revolving loans for small businesses and training small business owners to get loans, he added.
The governor proposed designating Nov. 20 as “Keep Colorado Working Day,” with seven job fairs as well as open houses at the state’s 63 Colorado Workforce Centers offering job assistance. He also suggested setting up small business finance forums across the state beginning in December.
Ritter’s plan is part of his proposed $19.2 billion budget next year, up 3.4 percent from the current $18.6 billion.
Economic Development Director Don Elliman told the committee that the governor’s office is still working on incentives and should have more details when the Legislature convenes in January.
Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said the Senate plans to set up a select committee on job creation that could consider Ritter’s proposals.
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