Coloradans have elected a supermajority of Democrats to the state General Assembly. Some people are wondering what this will mean for the businesses that power our economy. It’s a good question.
As a longtime business owner and incoming Chair of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, I’m excited to collaborate with the business community on policies that strengthen our economy while reflecting the values of the voters. We can and must accomplish both goals.
In the midst of inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain concerns, Democrats won 46 out of 65 House seats. A plurality of Colorado voters are registered as Independents and are more likely to vote their values than a traditional party line.
Voters clearly approve of the direction Colorado is heading, and want us to think, act, and legislate economic issues with a broader focus and a longer view. They want policies that create a prosperous economy for everyone, more equitable access to essential human needs like housing and health care, rapid progress toward a clean energy economy, and more sustainable environmental practices.
Despite the challenges of inflation and staffing shortages, Colorado’s economy is seeing a strong recovery from the pandemic. But the realities of people’s everyday lives are more nuanced.
During the election campaign, candidates, including myself, knocked on thousands of voters’ doors. Too many Coloradans are living in poverty or extremely difficult circumstances. Others are doing well themselves, but are disturbed by the suffering around them. People are frustrated but also hopeful.
They want us to keep making progress on the hard problems: Narrowing the gap between rich and poor, addressing the circumstances that create insurmountable medical debt, creating more affordable housing — to name a few. They want us to continue pushing to make progress on the climate crisis, which is exacerbating drought and fire disasters in almost every Colorado community and hurting homeowners, businesses, and workers.
These are issues we need the business community to help solve. We need their ideas, innovation, and willingness to engage in policy making as partners.
We have a long track record of success. In the last few years, we’ve tackled some of the biggest challenges facing the business community and enacted significant legislation to support small businesses.
In 2021, our state stimulus plan focused on boosting industries that were facing the brunt of the pandemic, such as restaurants, hotels, venues, and our creative industry. We allowed retailers and restaurants to retain the sales taxes they collected on behalf of the state government. We eliminated the business personal property tax for small businesses. We created grant and low-interest loan options for small businesses to stay in business, open or expand. We’ve collaborated with the business community to pass bills containing solutions to some of our most pressing challenges, such as freezing property taxes for small businesses and fixing our unemployment insurance trust fund to prevent cost increases on employers.
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Despite our successes, many small businesses and workers are still facing challenges. We need to work together to meet their needs and move our state forward. We can learn from businesses who are already leading the way. Members of organizations like Good Business Colorado understand the connection between long-term business success and doing well by employees and communities. Even larger corporations are embracing a triple-bottom-line philosophy, which measures success not just on profitability, but also on impacts to people and the planet.
It is our job as lawmakers to protect workers, consumers, and the environment while ensuring that we have a robust business community. Regulations we bring forward offer important protections for other businesses as well.
We weren’t elected ram through one-sided policies, but to seize the moment and continue to help businesses thrive, create good jobs, and build an economy that works for all. I’m ready and willing to collaborate with anyone who wants to bring ideas to the table to deliver for the voters. If we work together, we can ensure a vibrant future for all Coloradans.
Judy Amabile, of Boulder, represents District 49 in the Colorado House Representatives. She is incoming chair of the House Business and Labor Committee.
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