Choosing Winners and Losers

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Overview: HB 13-1001 CONCERNING AN ADVANCED INDUSTRY GRANT PROGRAM, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, ENACTING THE “ADVANCED INDUSTRIES ACCELERATION ACT”; ADDING REPRESENTATIVES FROM ADVANCED INDUSTRIES TO THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION: REPEALING THE BIOSCIENCE DISCOVERY EVALUATION GRANT PROGRAM AND THE CLEAN TECHNOLOGY DISCOVERY EVALUATION GRANT PROGRAM; AND CREATING THE COLORADO ADVANCED INDUSTRIES ACCELERATION CASH FUNDTO BE USED TO PROVIDE PROOF-OF-CONCEPT GRANTS, EARLY-STAGE CAPITAL AND RETENTION GRANTS, AND INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING GRANTS.

Position: Opposed

In recent years, politicians from both parties have fallen over each other promising legislation to “create jobs”. Ask yourself a basic question: Do you think government can fairly and efficiently allocate, manage, and administer public resources to help create “net” new jobs and sustainable economic growth in the private sector AND maintain a free market economy?

History is replete with attempts (large and small) to centrally manage and influence growth and investments. Poor planning and management, waste, corruption, and bureaucratic inefficiency collapsed the economy of the Soviet Union, leading to its dissolution in 1991. Troubled economies in the European Union face some of those same challenges. Of course many would rightly say “Hey, we’re not the Soviet Union or Western Europe. Maybe a little public-private investment and spending stimulation by government is what our economy needs.” OK. Then let’s look close to home at our own track record.

After $1.5 trillion of government “economic stimulus” spending and investment with $16 trillion in debt, our US economy is still mired in the longest and most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. Coincidentally, that was the last time we tried a centrally managed economic spending and investment approach to “create jobs”. 12.2 million Americans are still unemployed with 4.8 million considered “long term unemployed”. Another 7.8 million Americans are classified as “under employed” and another 6.5 million are considered “discouraged workers”, not even counted in the unemployment number. Government economic stimulus didn’t lower those numbers! Voters want their elected officials “to do something” to help. Supporters of HB 13-1001 believe using state dollars to “stimulate” and invest in seven specific “Advanced Industries” is a wise course. We’ve heard that song before, having lost billions of government dollars on bad public investments in private companies. Names like Solyndra, Abound Energy, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, Mountain Plaza (electrification), and Olsen’s Mills (manufacturing) come to mind.

Let’s face it. Government bureaucrats aren’t very good at choosing winners over losers. Our governor and legislature have smarter options than HB 13-1001 which taxes ALL businesses while rewarding a few, diverts dollars from other state needs, and will likely require further public financing without any guarantee of taxpayer return. The bill’s actions violate limited government and free market principles, fall outside the role of government as described in the Colorado Constitution, and lack adequate fiscal responsibility and accountability. Yes, this bill creates more public sector spending, payroll, and pension cost. That doesn’t help Colorado recover from the recession. The numbers tell us that government stimulus spending hasn’t added sustainable private sector jobs.

Instead of creating another expensive program, Governor Hickenlooper and bill sponsors should follow the lead of our neighbors in Kansas and Nebraska. Focus on eliminating and reducing barriers to growth. Several opportunities come to mind. Reform the tax code to reduce and/or eliminate the state personal and corporate income tax. Repeal the Gallagher Amendment which puts an unfair tax burden on businesses. Reduce and work to eliminate the Business Personal Property Tax. Put a moratorium on new business regulations and begin eliminating burdensome and useless ones which cost Colorado businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year. Review deductions and simplify the state sales tax system to make it fair for all businesses and families.

Colorado is a great place to live, and it can be a great place where ALL businesses and families grow and thrive. We shouldn’t reward some businesses at the expense of others. Investors and entrepreneurs are attracted to areas where free markets are strong, creativity and risk is rewarded, and regulations and taxes are not burdensome. Our governor and legislature can improve many of these factors without starting up one more government program that expands the state bureaucracy. Let’s make Colorado a place where not just the favored few are rewarded, but where everyone wins.

Tim Neville
Fmr. Senator District 22