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Monday, May 11, 2009

Legislature Passes Job-Killing Bills

The following article originally was published in the May 11, 2009, edition of Grand Junction's Free Press.

Legislature passes job-killing bills

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The Colorado legislature is pro-business in roughly the same way that throwing a dog a bone after beating him mercilessly is pro-dog.

That didn't stop three journalists -- Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal, Peter Marcus of the Denver Daily News, and Steven Paulson of the Associated Press -- from regurgitating political propaganda last week about "job creation" bills and calling it news.

So now we'll give you the full story. (We figure if you're going to get lame editorials on the news pages elsewhere, you might as well get some real news on the editorial pages here.)

The main "jobs" measure in question is House Bill 1001, fawned over by politicians, bureaucrats, and various journalists alike. While the measure features Democrats as lead sponsors, various Republicans also signed on, including Steve King and Josh Penry.

Bill 1001 adds several new pages of tortured legalese to the Colorado statutes (section 39-22-531, because we know you'll want to look it up later) allowing the Colorado Economic Development Commission, at its discretion, to offer a "job growth incentive tax credit," as calculated in accordance with the bill.

And what is the Colorado Economic Development Commission? Its web page notes, "It consists of nine members five of whom are appointed by the Governor, two by the President of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House."

Those of you who thought we lived in a free-market economy were sorely mistaken. Now we have a bureaucratic commission to help set the rules of business and determine the winners and losers. Business is no longer about offering goods and services on a level playing field where the laws apply the same to everybody. Now business is about sucking up to the Commissars for special political favors.

Bill 1001 is about taxing businesses with existing jobs more in order to reduce the tax burden on businesses with "new" jobs. And we're supposed to swallow the notion that these discriminatory taxes are fair.

The hidden premise behind Bill 1001 is that taxes kill jobs, a premise with which we agree. Yet, instead of reducing taxes across the board so that everyone can benefit equally, the legislature wants to reward politically-correct and politically-connected businesses at the expense of everybody else.

And Bill 1001 is the good news of the legislative session. Remember, even the Democrat-controlled legislature implicitly grants that taxes kill jobs. Therefore, the legislature has done everything it can to increase taxes during the current recession. (Note that the governor had not acted on some of these bills as of our deadline.)

During this recession, many taxpayers are taking a hit, either in reduced work, reduced wages, or less business. Yet, rather than take an equal hit, Governor Bill Ritter just signed a $17.9 billion state budget, or about $3,500 for every man, woman, and child. While the total budget is less than the $18.6 billion for 2008-09, it exceeds the $17.2 billion for 2007-08 (as relayed by the Joint Budget Committee).

To keep state spending high, the legislature has looked for new ways to make people pay. Two of the worst bills of the session raise fees on cars and hospital visits. During a recession the legislature must screw drivers and the sick especially hard to fund more bureaucracy.

Senate Bill 108, the Denver Post reports, would increase the "cost of vehicle registration by an average of $41 for typical vehicles." We continue to wonder where all our gasoline tax dollars are going.

House Bill 1293, laughably called the "Health Care Affordability Act of 2009," would impose "hospital provider fees... on outpatient and inpatient services provided by all licensed or certified hospitals."

You see, this fee will make your health care more "affordable" by forcing you to pay more for the health care of others. (Paging Dr. Orwell.)

In order to hide these fees from patients, the legislature helpfully included the following line: "A hospital shall not include any amount of the provider fee as a separate line item in its billing statements."

As we have discussed, the real problem is that the federal government forces hospitals to provide care without compensation. But the solution to the problem is to repeal those federal controls, not force even more wealth redistribution.

The legislature also passed bills to increase capital-gains taxes (bill 1366), cigarette taxes (bill 1342), and net sales taxes (bill 212). (Though we gave the Denver Business Journal a bit of heck earlier, we gratefully acknowledge the paper's reporting on these bills.)

But doesn't the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights require voter approval for all such hikes? Silly taxpayer. You have obviously confused the plain language of TABOR with the Colorado Supreme Court's transcendent reasoning. (For details, see ClearTheBenchColorado.org.)

We haven't even gotten into the bills that increase the costs of doing business and reward people for not working.

We do have one thing to be thankful for: the legislature has disbanded till January.

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