Colorado’s road to freedom starts with reducing barriers to work, resisting urge to raise taxes

Author: Jesse Mallory - January 21, 2018 - Updated: January 22, 2018

Jesse Mallory

In 2018 state lawmakers have an opportunity to make Colorado an even better place to live, and they can do it without having to raise our taxes.

Legislators will be lobbied to support pet projects that favor the select few and get behind tax increases to pay for it all, but a better approach would focus on policies that help hold down government spending and grow the state economy to benefit all Coloradans. As we do this, we can make important and smart investments in our state to increase our competitiveness and enhance the quality of life for everyone.

One place where it makes sense to start is with infrastructure and transportation. A recent study found that 41 percent of locally and state-maintained urban roads are in poor condition. We trail states like Texas and Utah in road conditions, according to that same study.

In years past, transportation has been crowded out in the state budget by entitlement programs like Medicaid. This year’s legislative session looks to be different, with a number of state lawmakers pushing for transportation and infrastructure legislation to pay for transportation projects without raising taxes.

Imposing this type of fiscal discipline is consistent with the principles enshrined in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, one of the crown jewels of Colorado policy that has allowed us to keep government spending in check and attractive to job creators. As a result, the state’s economy is among the nation’s strongest.

But improving transportation and infrastructure is not just about dollars. Other ways to improve our state’s infrastructure include enacting regulatory and labor reforms that can reduce construction costs. Enacting collective bargaining reforms and repealing prevailing wage mandates would go a long way toward ensuring that tax dollars are being spent on important priorities rather than on red tape and inflated union contracts.

Overregulation is also a problem that prevents people from improving their lives. Over the years, occupational licensing, or government-issued permission slips to work in particular fields, has exploded. For example, back in the 1950s, only one in 20 U.S. workers needed an occupational license to work. Today, that number is almost one in three.

The Institute for Justice, a research group that has studied this issue for years, recently published a report that found Colorado requires licenses in 34 lower-income occupations, with an average of $344 in fees and 260 days of additional education.

No one wants to visit an unlicensed doctor or nurse. But when it takes longer to receive a cosmetology license than it does to get a medical technician license — as is the case in a number of states, including Colorado — something is wrong.

Legislators should look to states such as Mississippi and Arizona, which recently made changes to their occupational licensing laws to ensure that unnecessary barriers are not getting in the way of folks trying to make an honest living.

We could use a reduction of burdensome regulations in our energy sector, too. Instead of imposing restrictive bans on the rights of landowners, Colorado’s energy policies should encourage responsible development. This light-touch regulation would help keep energy costs down, particularly important for those living paycheck to paycheck.

Finally, the General Assembly should chip away at the one-size-fits-all approach to education. While other states are embracing bold and innovative reforms to provide students and families with increased educational options, special interests in our state are committed to turning back the clock on policies that advance educational freedom.

We made great strides in defending the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and advancing policies promoting economic freedom in 2017. But if we want to continue to build on that success, lawmakers in 2018 need to keep their foot on the gas on the road to freedom .

Jesse Mallory

Jesse Mallory

Jesse Mallory is the Colorado state director for Americans for Prosperity, the largest free-market grassroots organization in the state.