The Common Sense Policy Roundtable took a pragmatic review of the past legislative session during a breakfast in Greenwood Village on Tuesday.
The nonpartisan, business-friendly think tank offered studies during the session to help shape policy around such issues as oil and gas regulation, and paid family leave. Tuesday’s talk was a reflection of that work.
“We wanted to provide a summary to give people a sense of how to think about some of these issues and how they might impact, again, the overall economic outlook, just for some context,” said Chris Brown, director of policy and research for the nonprofit.
Brown said that Colorado has been a beneficiary of a relatively low unemployment rate, but there’s overall uncertainty for the future, pointing to lowered tax revenue projections that played out in a range of issues during the four-month legislative session that ended May 3.
The roundtable looked at 18 bills that represented economic indicators based partly on the impact to businesses and consumers, rating each one the way they’d rate stock ‘— buy, hold or sell — and overall gave the state a rating of hold.
“This is admittedly one of the less rigorous analysis we’ve done on the issues,” Brown said, before introducing a panel of experts to analyze the economic promises the Democrat-controlled session delivered.
You can read the full study by clicking here.
Lobbyist Zoey DeWolf, a partner in the Denver firm of Colorado Legislative Services and an expert on the state budget, said concerns about ongoing revenue to fund wish lists is justified. She said a lot depends on two bills that authorized a statewide vote in November to allow the state to keep future tax refunds, allowed in prosperous years by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
"I think the budgetary pressures speak to the necessity of House Bill 1257 and 1258 that free up the TABOR dollars, so expenditures can be made underneath the line,” DeWolf said. “But if those bills don’t pass and there’s a correction in the growth of the economy, we could see some serious cuts.”
Endorsing nonpartisan research, she said predictions on the effect of regulation on oil and gas operations are moving targets that elevate beyond political rhetoric, even with the best possible data at any given time .
Sen. Rob Woodward, a small business owner in Loveland and Republican who was elected to the General Assembly last year, said voters on the trail made it clear they don’t have an appetite for new taxes, even for roads and bridges, a traditional neglected need in the state budget.
“I think it’s a risky budget we’ve put together,” he said of the $32 billion spending plan. “We did some big things as a bipartisan legislature and got some things done, but it can’t last."
Elizabeth Peetz, the vice president of government affairs for the Colorado Realtors Association, spoke of a number of accomplishments on affordable housing this session. She said the legislature should be mindful of the bills they pass that create volumes of litigation.
“If we’re so worried about what might end up getting in the courtroom, it affects the cost of insurance, it affects the cost of building, all of these things when we add a litigation component, and it adds extra time to the process,” she said. “And it doesn’t necessarily give consumers more security.”
Kristin Strohm, president and CEO of the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, said views suggest the legislature didn't favor the business community this year.
“From our perspective this was not a good session for Colorado’s business climate,” she said in a statement accompanying the study of economic indicators.
“We simply cannot take our economy for granted. This session, legislators introduced a high level of uncertainty to the business community; new laws passed by the General Assembly could put Colorado at a disadvantage when it comes to competing for new investments.”