Ritter unveils proposals to boost Colorado economy | AspenTimes.com

Ritter unveils proposals to boost Colorado economy

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Tax breaks for companies that create jobs and more money for job training are among the proposals Gov. Bill Ritter will push next year to sustain Colorado’s economy during the recession.

Ritter signaled Thursday that job creation will be a top priority next year, with four bills headed to lawmakers that aim to help the economy.

Along with measures on tax breaks and job training at community colleges, Ritter’s package includes state-backed loans for small businesses and expanding a state investment fund for clean energy.

“We are not immune from the downturn,” Ritter told reporters. He said state tax revenue estimates coming out Friday would show a cooling economy.

Ritter did not release specifics on his proposals. But he said the business tax credit would set aside $2.5 million in state money for businesses that create at least 20 new jobs and that businesses could get state tax breaks of up to 50 percent for five years. The program would be a revived version of the Colorado Credit Reserve Program, which has been shelved since 2006.

“I’ve been listening to small business owners, and this is something they absolutely need,” Ritter said, noting that Colorado does not offer rich cash incentives for new jobs as some states do.

Ritter also wants lawmakers to set aside $1 million more for community colleges, especially for job training in the energy sector, and $1.4 million for a clean energy fund.

Republicans immediately questioned Ritter’s proposals, asking where the money would come from and stressing tax breaks would be a better tactic.

“The governor’s proposals look mostly like token gestures,” Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said in a statement.

Even some business leaders who attended Ritter’s announcement and applauded his ideas said more could be done to improve the state’s business climate.

Tops on their agenda is an end to property taxes on equipment owned by businesses.

“We’d love to see us get rid of that tax,” said Holli Baumunk, president of the Economic Development Council of Colorado.

Ritter, though, said it’s not possible right now to waive that tax. He pointed out that local governments depend on it, and that they’d have to raise other taxes or cut services if it was eliminated.

“That is not on the governor’s agenda this year,” he replied.

Democratic Rep. Joe Rice of Littleton said the Legislature also may have to look at taxes or fees to pay for needed road improvements. With the economy in recession, new state construction could stave off job losses, Rice said.

Ritter has sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama asking for more than $1 billion in federal money for Colorado road projects. But his package announced Thursday does not address roads spending. Rice predicted there would be no avoiding that topic when lawmakers return to Denver next month.

“Transportation funding: That’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” Rice said.

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