Ritter shares out budget pain, lifts business tax exemptions

DENVER– Gov. Bill Ritter signed nine pieces of controversial legislation into law Wednesday that suspended or eliminated tax breaks for businesses. Ritter is attempting to balance a state budget billions in the red due to recession-era declining tax revenues. The bills he signed Wednesday drew sharp protest from Republican lawmakers who said they were bad for business and recommended additional program cuts on top of the historic cuts already made in the last year. The tax bills will generate $15.6 million in revenue this fiscal year and $132.6 million next fiscal year.

Gov. Bill Ritter (wiki commons)
Gov. Bill Ritter (wiki commons)

“Over the past 18 months, we have cut spending and closed shortfalls of $2.2 billion while also addressing a $1.3 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year and preparing for even more cuts in the fiscal year after that,” Ritter said in a release. “We have taken a balanced approach to keeping the budget balanced. We have asked everyone – government agencies, state workers, nonprofits, medical providers, senior citizens, schools, colleges, the conservation community and businesses – to share in the burden and share in the solutions so that no one group is unfairly or unduly impacted.

“Signing these bills was not something I wanted to do,” Gov. Ritter said. “But it was something that was necessary in order to keep the budget balanced and to continue positioning Colorado for a strong and healthy recovery.”

Hard choices made by lawmakers and now the governor included levying a tax on candy and soda, eliminating sales tax exemptions for direct mail businesses, suspending an agriculture sales and use exemption and placing a sales tax on out of state retailers that would affect internet sales.

A suspension of industrial fuel tax made for strange bedfellows. Republican lawmakers against the bill found themselves lauding steel workers union representatives who argued that the exemption might result in factory job loss. During the debate in the Senate, one Republican said that Democrats should listen to their constituencies in Pueblo. 

Pueblo Democratic State Sen. Abel Tabia responded that as a former steel worker no one in the state had worked harder for Pueblo or those workers than he had done but he said that sacrifices simply hade to be made and in every area.

According to the Pueblo Cheiftan, Tapia was able to get an amendment passed that protected Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel from some of the taxes, reducing projected costs to the mill from $2 million a year to $1 million.

Tapia said on the floor that the vote was one of the most difficult choices he had made.

In the House, Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, voted against the bill on concerns for the mill and its workers.  

Gov. Ritter signed the following bills Wednesday:   

House Bill 1189, Eliminate Sales Tax Exemption for Direct Mail
House Bill 1190, Suspend Industrial Fuel Sales and Use Tax
House Bill 1191, Eliminate Candy and Soda Sales Tax Exemption
House Bill 1192, Repeal Sales and Use Tax of Standardized Software
House Bill 1193, Sales Tax Out-of-State Retailers
House Bill 1194, Eliminate Non-Essential Articles Sales Tax Exemption
House Bill 1195, Suspend Ag Sales & Use Tax Exemption
House Bill 1196, Income Tax Credit Vehicles Using Alternative Fuels
House Bill 1199, Limit the Net Operating Loss Deduction Temporary Limit
Two additional bills are pending:

House Bill 1197, Reduce Conservation Easement Cap Amount
House Bill 1200, Limit Enterprise Zone Investment Tax Credit

Contact the writer at jboven at coloradoindependent dot com. Got a tip? Freelance story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.