Denver business leaders are predictably pushed back this week against Gov. Bill Ritter’s latest budget-cutting plan. Ritter has proposed adding $131.8 million to revenues by suspending business tax exemptions.
The move would generate a little more than 10 percent of the estimated $1.02 billion missing in the budget. Ritter unveiled the budget-cut proposal on Friday. Metro Chamber of Commerce business executives voiced their opposition at a meeting Tuesday at the state capitol.
“Will the tax exemption suspension plan affect our ability to do business?” asked Chuck Ward, chair of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and president of Qwest-Colorado, one of the state’s largest employers. “We all want to see a strong Colorado.”
Ritter is looking to strip an estimated $48 million exemption for industrial and manufacturing energy use from the new budget, a plan Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry singled out for opposition Wednesday, the opening day of the 2010 legislative session. Ritter also wants to strip out an estimated $18 million sales tax exemption for candy and soft drinks.
“We need to look at legislation that repeals business incentives,” said Larry Liston, a Republican representative from El Paso County. “We are in competition not only country-wide but world-wide.”
About 100 Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce members attended Tuesday’s policy discussion, the first in several years to be held before the legislature was actually open for business.
The wrangle over the tax exemptions will be just one thread running through the debate over the budget that will dominate legislative efforts this year.