Election 2010: ColoradoBiz endorsements

Governor: John Hickenlooper

Near the end of an interview with John Hickenlooper, we asked the Denver mayor the same open-ended question we asked other candidates for governor. After a lengthy discussion about the economy, energy policy, education, water and other big-picture issues, was there anything else he would like to address?

In that moment, Hickenlooper put his campaign aside for a moment and made a plea for voters to reject ballot Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, restrictive measures that both Republicans and Democrats contend will hobble state and local government’s ability to raise revenues and borrow money in an already tough economic environment.

That Hickenlooper responded to the question by addressing these measures underscores his commitment to the greater good. It was the only time during the half-hour interview that he mentioned his then-GOP gubernatorial rival Scott McInnis and only to note that McInnis had also publicly come out against the measures.

Not the kind of campaign message that inspires you to take a shower with your clothes on. It was also a reminder that this was the guy who jumped out of an airplane five years ago to spread a similar bipartisan message to support Referenda C and D, measures designed to provide some leeway for government spending from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights to pay for transportation projects, school construction and other needs.

During an election year when Democrats stand to lose considerable ground nationally, even a popular politician like John Hickenlooper faces a tough battle. It’s only because of major missteps by his Republican rivals that his path to the governor’s mansion seems to have few stones in it.

Political novice Dan Maes is hardly worth mentioning. Even if you erase his campaign finance violations, it’s clear the Evergreen businessman has little of substance to offer. Former congressman Tom Tancredo – who supports 60, 61 and 101 – certainly has the experience and depth of knowledge to do the job. But do we really want someone running the state of Colorado who creates chaos and divisiveness even within his own party? Or at least the one he was in before he jumped ship to another one so he could run for governor.

Tancredo and Hickenlooper disagree on most issues – especially Tancredo’s favorite subject: immigration – but both arrive at the same place when it comes to jump-starting the state’s economy. Both say Colorado needs to put out a welcome sign that says “open for business.”

Hickenlooper aims to build consensus by engaging business and community leaders from around the state to draft regional economic plans that can then be used to create a state plan, one that reflects the different strengths and challenges around the state. It’s hardly a novel idea, but it underscores the unity Colorado needs to embrace in an era of revenue-strapped government, struggling businesses and the zero appetite for new taxes that Hickenlooper has acknowledged.

The only long-term answer is to create a stronger environment for business. Colorado was ranked the third best state in the country for business by CNBC this year. Hickenlooper mentions such rankings often during his stump speeches, noting that the state needs to do a better job publicizing that message both within the state and beyond its borders.

As governor, Hickenlooper needs to do more than just spread the message about being No. 3 – he needs to lead the way to No. 1.

Just say no to 60, 61 and 101
Ballot measures would cripple government and schools

It’s rare that business leaders and union organizers agree on political issues. But there’s been a strong consensus from both sides of the political aisle to reject Amendments 60, 61 and 101. These measures would damage an already fragile Colorado economy by stifling the ability of government and school systems to provide services.

Coloradans for Responsible Reform, the bipartisan group fighting the measures, estimates they would lead to the loss of 70,000 public and private-sector jobs both and the elimination of 8,000 school teachers.

Amendment 60 would cut property taxes for schools, with the state making up the shortfall in school funding. It also would allow voters to roll back previous approvals of governments retaining more tax revenue above limits set by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Amendment 61 would prohibit state government from borrowing money and would require local governments to get voter approval to borrow money. Local governments also would be required to repay the debt within 10 years.

Proposition 101 would cut state income taxes from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent over time, slash vehicle-registration fees and taxes and eliminate all taxes and fees on phones except for 911 service. It would also require voter approval of fees on vehicles and telecommunications.

In his address to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 15, incoming Chairman Bill Lindsey called on business leaders to help defeat the measures, saying if passed, the state 
”will be affected in ways that we can’t even contemplate.” As 
they left the chamber’s annual meeting, attendees were handed flags to post on their lawns in opposition to the measure. 
(See www.donthurtcolorado.com)

That same week, the Colorado AFI-CIO issued a news release urging its members and voters around the state to defeat the measures.

“It is rare that we can stand shoulder-to shoulder with the chambers of commerce, but on these measures we are united,” AFL-CIO Executive Director Mike Cerbo said in the release. “They will severely damage the economy of Colorado and they must be defeated.”

Senate: Ken Buck

We endorse Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck because he’s placed a higher priority than his opponent on improving the plight of small business, which he correctly deems to be the engine of economic recovery.

Buck faces incumbent Michael Bennet in one of the most competitive races in the country. Bennet, who received President Obama’s endorsement in the Democratic primary, was appointed to fill out the U.S. Senate term when Ken Salazar was named U.S. interior secretary.

While Buck has consistently campaigned for minimal federal government with regard to fiscal policy, he also has shown sensibility in conceding that the financial reform bill will give regulators the tools to get banks to lend money to small businesses in down economic cycles, when they need it most.

It’s no small matter that electing Buck also would send a message to the Obama administration and Democrat-predominant House and Senate that there will be a political price to pay for reckless spending at the expense of individual taxpayers and businesses.

Buck’s campaign has largely hinged on curtailing deficit spending, and he’s taken some tough stances on that front. The Weld County district attorney has come out against health-care reform that puts the federal government in charge and has argued for increasing the retirement age as one step in making Social Security sustainable.

“The federal government is trying to solve every problem,” he said at a debate in Colorado Springs in March. “The reality is that the power lies with you and me in our local communities.”
The most consistent reaction we hear from small businesses on the subject of job creation – or lack thereof in the past two years – is that they’re hampered by uncertainty with regard to taxes, health-care reform and government regulation.

To grow, businesses need to know what the consequences of expansion are going to be. Buck, an avowed “free market kind of guy,” offers the best chance of providing Colorado businesses more certainty than they have now.
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