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Posted: February 01, 2010

State of the state: Government

No surprise: Jobs are the No. 1 priority this political season

Mike Cote

On the eve of Colorado's legislative session in January, George Clooney got a couple of free plugs for his latest movie from both sides of the political aisle. If there's one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree upon it's the pain that comes from losing your job.

In "Up in the Air," Clooney plays a jet-bound envoy companies deploy to handle the uncomfortable task of laying off their workers. It's hardly the feel-good movie of the year, but the story rings true in 2010.

While Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper stood outside the steps of the Capitol to announce he was running for governor on the Democratic ticket, he alluded to the movie, recalling his days as an-out-work geologist.

"In the 1980s, when the oil industry went bust, we all had to adapt. And I became a businessman," Hickenlooper said. "I remember the day I got laid off. They had that guy like that movie that's out now; he came in and told each of us, one after another, that we were out of work."
(Former Colorado congressman Rep. Scott McInnis and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes are vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.)

Earlier in the day, Republican Caucus Chair Rep. Amy Stephens referenced "Up in the Air" while voicing her opposition to a proposal to eliminate $132 million worth of business tax exemptions. The state's $18 billion general fund budget is short $1.5 billion.

"You see the people who are getting laid off, and you see the reaction and the tears, and some people throwing chairs, a 50-something-year-old guy crying showing (Clooney's character) the two young kids, ‘Yeah, right. Your little package. What are you going to tell me to do?'" Stephens said during a legislative preview at the Westin Tabor sponsored by the law firm Greenberg Traurig.

"I have a lot of people in my district where this is their situation," the Monument legislator said. "It's not fun. It's not pretty. So when we talk about balancing the budget and winners and losers, when businesses are hanging on a precarious line if they're going to stay open another year, I don't believe getting rid of the tax credits is the way to go."

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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