ARCHIVED  January 1, 1997

Jobs, welfare top agenda for ’97 Legislature

When the Colorado Legislature reconvenes at the beginning of 1997, groups representing Northern Colorado interests will be poised to breath new life into legislation that failed last year.

The bills would not only affect the Northern Colorado business community and economy but would also reverberate statewide.

The high-profile legislation being presented will include the primary-job-creation bill, the personal-property-tax bill, transportation-funding measures and additional welfare reform.

“These are all complicated and important issues that cannot be solved quickly or easily,´ said state Rep. Steve Tool, R-Fort Collins.

Tool spearheaded the primary-job-creation bill last year with the help of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance and the Fort Collins Economic Development Corp. The bill was defeated in 1996 but has been reshaped and will be presented again during the 1997 session.

Sandra Hagen Potter, issues manager for the NCLA, said the primary-job-creation bill was originally patterned after the state’s enterprise-zone program.

Enterprise zones give a series of tax credits to companies located in designated, economically depressed areas. Although a program to create primary jobs would have a tax-credit provision similar to the enterprise-zone program, it would apply statewide.

In order to qualify for tax credits under a primary-job-creation program, a company must pay employees a wage higher than the local average and must export a certain percentage of its product out of state.

When Tool became involved with the primary-job-creation idea several years ago, he watched Fort Collins and Colorado Springs compete for business.

“We need to have incentives to bring jobs to Colorado but not create conflicts between communities,” Tool said.

Tool approached Roland Mower, president of Fort Collins Economic Development. The two studied the kinds of jobs being created in the area and realized that most were service-and retail-oriented.

“In a downward-shifting economy, the retail and service-oriented jobs are the first to go,” Tool said.

They wanted to create jobs that would strengthen the economy and remain even during a downturn.

Should a primary-jobs bill pass, qualified companies would benefit from job training and incentives for investment in equipment and providing primary-job employment.

The primary-job-creation bill must still weather the legislative process. The bill’s short life in 1996 ended in the House Appropriations Committee.

Personal property tax

The Primary Job Creation bill is not the only piece of legislation requiring attention this 1997 legislative session. The Personal Property Tax Reduction bill will also be re-submitted.

“This bill will exempt the first $10,000 in the assessment of a business’ personal property from their personal property tax,” Potter said.

It was introduced last year and arrived at Romer’s desk, only to be vetoed.

“Romer felt the bill was a piecemeal effort to solve a larger problem of the burdensome tax structure for businesses,” Potter said.

If the personal-property-tax bill passed, Potter explained, “75 percent of businesses within the state would never have to pay a personal-property tax because their personal property would not amount to more $10,000.”

Transportation

When the Blue Ribbon Panel on transportation issued its report forecasting a shortfall of $13 billion in transportation maintenance and expansion during the next 20 years, numerous plans were developed to solve the problem.

“This legislative session, there will be a significant amount of energy focused to decide where those funds will be created,” Potter said.

These issues significantly affect the functioning of commerce on a daily level and whether or not money from a new tax will fund transportation needs in the future.

There are four main proposals being considered by the Legislature. The first, recommended by the Blue Ribbon Panel, proposes an increase in various taxes and fees. This would include an 8-cent increase in the gas tax, a $40 vehicle-registration fee increase and a $40 increase in the vehicle and ad-valorem tax at the sale of a new or used car.

The second proposal, dubbed the Noble bill, involves moving a portion of current revenues generated from the sales tax on vehicles and vehicle-related items back to the Highway Users Tax Fund.

Third is a proposal to use the surpluses from the state General Fund. In the past two years, the state Legislature has appropriated an additional $225 million from the surplus general-fund dollars to the highway fund. In doing so, additional tax dollars would not need to be generated, but current revenues would be earmarked for transportation.

The fourth proposal seeks to raise necessary funding through bonding and tolling authorities. A toll-authority proposal was passed by the Legislature in 1996. A bonding authority proposal will be introduced in 1997.

Welfare reform

If you don’t think welfare reform and business go hand in hand, think again. With the welfare-reform bill President Clinton signed, welfare reform will include business’ ability to help potential workers into the workplace.

“Government cannot mandate job creation,” Potter said.

Yet the business community is being asked to provide jobs to those who are trained and ready to work.

“The NCLA will use the discussion of welfare reform to raise the issue of creating a positive business climate, including tax relief and transportation,” Potter said. “Welfare reform goes hand in hand with business’ ability to create jobs.

“We can train all of these people on welfare, require them to work, but if the jobs are not available, then we have accomplished nothing,” Potter added.

When the Colorado Legislature reconvenes at the beginning of 1997, groups representing Northern Colorado interests will be poised to breath new life into legislation that failed last year.

The bills would not only affect the Northern Colorado business community and economy but would also reverberate statewide.

The high-profile legislation being presented will include the primary-job-creation bill, the personal-property-tax bill, transportation-funding measures and additional welfare reform.

“These are all complicated and important issues that cannot be solved quickly or easily,´ said state Rep. Steve Tool, R-Fort Collins.

Tool spearheaded the primary-job-creation bill last year with the help of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance and the…

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