Republicans line up to testify in favor of doomed tax-hike moratorium

Republicans lined up to testify Wednesay in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a declaration the Senate would never officially declare. SR 11-04 called for the Senate to put its foot down and state for the record that it would not raise taxes during the legislative session.  Democrats all voted no and the bill died.

“We have a very fragile economy right now, and I think it is important to send a very clear message to the businesses in Colorado and the businesses that are thinking about coming to Colorado that we are not going to raise your taxes,” Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said.

The bill resolved that the Sixty-eighth General Assembly would not raise taxes.

Republicans already knew the outcome of the Senate resolution when they lined up outside the door of the committee room Wednesday, but they were adamant that their voices would be heard on the resolution before its death. Republicans argued against increasing taxes during a time when businesses were on the brink of failure. They said that unlike past times of economic prosperity, under the current economy tax increases in the state could lead to some businesses leaving and others that might have come here choosing instead to move to states with a less burdensome tax climate.

“To me it is like crying wolf,” Chair of the Committee Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said. “I hear the same story all the time. Whether it is good times or bad times it is never a good time to talk about taxes.”

Heath, who is planning to ask Colorado citizens to vote for a short-term tax increase for education on this year’s ballot, said that there never appeared to be a good time to raise taxes for Republicans. He went on to say that of the businesses he had helped bring to the state, an educated workforce was far higher than taxes on the list of criteria they had used to come here.

Republicans countered that it was a fact that businesses moved where the tax and regulatory environment were least burdensome. Brophy said that it was businesses that would drive the economy back on its feet and increase state revenue.

Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker,  agreed with Brophy and other members of the Senate Republicans who said government should be cutting costs not raising taxes.

“I believe pretty strongly that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” Scheffel said.

While the resolution was simply targeted at tax increases, Democrats and Republicans discussed Colorado’s fee structure and numerous other revenue generating methods used by the state, municipalities and districts. Brophy even discussed the growing Colorado Medicaid rolls and said that was an area ripe for reform.

Still, despite the ideological battle that might have been waged, Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, said the bill was too limited in scope to warrant further discussion.  Calling the bill “good theater,” Bacon said the resolution was moot because it addressed taxes the Legislature could not raise and did not address fees that the Legislature can raise. He said that it did not provide the groundwork for a real and complex discussion about Colorado’s revenue.

The committee killed the resolution, 3-2 on a party-line vote.

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