Colorado Concern Archives - Colorado Politics
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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 12, 20186min9000

Dear Colorado legislature, get on the bus, but don’t step on the gas.

That’s the takeaway from a letter more than 20 chambers and other business organizations sent to lawmakers Friday urging them to support an ongoing source of revenue for transportation, meaning revenue from growth that’s locked into the state budget.

Transportation funding is expected to be a major issue at the statehouse again this year.

“The congestion and road safety situation in the state is at a watershed moment, so it is encouraging that the governor and many legislators have engaged in a very hopeful dialogue around the right questions: How much taxpayer money can we invest and for how long?” former state Sen. Mike Kopp, who is president and CEO of Colorado Concern, said in a statement.

“The public will applaud them if they reach the $300 million level for an extended period of time.”

Colorado leaders have looked at the dicey proposition of asking voters to raise gas or sales taxes, but proposals have bogged down at the state level, where Republicans eschew higher taxes (especially in prosperous times). Locally, municipalities contend they need to reserve voters’ willingness to raise sales taxes for local needs.

Proponents of reserving money in the state budget point to Colorado’s growth, but Democrats say Republicans want to cash in during the good times, which will dictate deep cuts to schools and social programs when the economy slows.

Transportation proponents contend the state should reserve $300 million to repay bonds to jump-start major projects, such as the clogged stretch from Monument to Castle Rock and from Denver to Fort Collins, as well as the I-70 mountain corridor.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has requested $148.2 million next year and some undetermined amount the year after — a far cry from $300 million a year to repay bonds.

The letter states in part:

Why is this important?

Growth and economic prosperity are a double edge sword. We laud the significant economic gains and the recognition for being one of the strongest state economies in the country. But, frustration with growth is increasing in large part because our transportation infrastructure isn’t keeping pace.

And then there are counties and towns in Colorado that are struggling economically. While they may not have the growth pressures of some urban areas, they have important transportation projects that need attention.

Coloradans know state revenues are increasing, and they expect state leaders to invest some of those dollars in transportation infrastructure.

The business groups that endorsed the letter were rallied by Fix Colorado Roads, a statewide coalition that has been working at the Capitol to gin up long-term investment in transportation since 2015.

“Today, we join with chambers of commerce and business leaders across the state in imploring legislative leaders and the governor to invest in the corridors that will keep our economy moving forward,” Fix Colorado Roads’ Sandra Hagen Solin said in a statement. “These groups represent communities along the most important economic corridors in the state and businesses in every Colorado industry sector.”

Chris Romer, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, said addressing transportation is key to Colorado’s long-term economic success.

“We are keenly aware of the economic impacts that aging transportation infrastructure has on our economy,” he said.

Added David May, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce,  “Transportation corridors are essential to sustained economic prosperity and the ability to attract new employers and retain existing industries. Another year of legislative inaction on transportation would not be helpful to Colorado’s economy.”

The signers of the letter are:

  • Dirk Draper, CEO and president
    Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC
  • Carl Maxey, Chairman
    Northern Colorado legislative alliance
  • Mike Kopp, president and CEO
    Colorado Concern
  • Greg Fulton, president
    Colorado Motor Carriers Association
  • Chris Romer, president and CEO
    Vail Valley Partnership
  • David May, president and CEO
    Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce
  • Robert Golden, president and CEO
    South Metro Chamber of Commerce
  • Mindy McCloughan, president and CEO
    Loveland Chamber of Commerce
  • Sarah MacQuiddy, president
    Greeley Chamber of Commerce
  • Rich Werner, president and CEO
    Upstate Colorado Economic Development
  • Andy Montgomery, CEO
    Northern Colorado Economic Alliance
  • Jack Llewellyn, executive director
    Durango Chamber of Commerce
  • Kara Stoller, CEO
    Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association
  • Angie Anderson, president and CEO
    Glenwood Chamber Resort Association
  • Shelly McManus, executive director
    Kremmling Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Melanie Swearengin, executive director
    Conifer Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Debbie Miller, president
    Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce
  • Barry Gore, president and CEO
    Adams County Economic Development
  • Gregg Moss, president and CEO
    Metro North Chamber of Commerce
  • Dave Davia, executive vice president and CEO
    Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors
  • Jeff Wasden, president
    Colorado Business Roundtable
  • Deanne Mulvihill, executive director
    Berthoud Area Chamber of Commerce

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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 18, 20174min235
As Lakewood and other cities consider capping housing growth, a consortium of economic groups say there’s a bigger picture to consider, and it’s spelled out in a study released Wednesday. The REMI Partnership — made up of the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, Colorado Concern, the Colorado Association of Realtors and Denver South Economic Development Partnership […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 25, 20176min3760

Diverse data in, the best policies out. That’s the view Chris Brown is bringing to Colorado from Washington, D.C., next month.

Brown was in Denver this week looking for a house before he officially becomes the director of policy and research for the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, the right-leaning “free market” think tank.

While CSPR isn’t overtly political, it provides data that furthers politics. The think tank was created by The Starboard Group and EIS Solutions, two firms with a political a Republican history. and ties to the oil and gas industry.

The think tank’s board includes Republican politicians Heidi Ganahl, who was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents last Novenber, and Jack Graham, who ran for U.S. Senate last year and is considering a run for governor next year.

One of its most prominent supporters is Mike Kopp, the Republican former state Senate minority leader and gubernatorial candidate who leads the bipartisan business coalition Colorado Concern.

Brown has worked for Regional Economic Modeling Inc. for nine years, starting as an assistant economist in the firm’s Amherst, Mass., office then opening its Washington office six years ago. REMI manages research projects with a diversity of partners on the right and left. That’s key to credibility in research projects, Brown told Colorado Politics.

“My role in working with REMI is supporting REMI’s diverse client base and the independent work each client is doing,” he said. “I hope to, through this role, assist CSPR build on the expertise by working with diverse organizations across the county on a range of policy issues, to apply what I’ve learned in assessing critical policy issue here in Colorado.”

Analysis, such as that provided by REMI, helps policymakers better understand the macroeconomic cost of their decisions.

Brown said he intends to facilitate dynamic economic modeling on a range of policy issues to provide information in a nonpartisan way.

“CSPR and its leadership will continue to be a resource, but there’s also a diverse group of study partners, and I hope to reach out to other local subject-area experts. Really, this is an effort, the way I see it, to educate and inform on critical, critical policy issues that we have here in Colorado.”

CSPR doesn’t tell lawmakers what to think, but they provide data to think about.

In March, for example, lawmakers were considering legislation to make it harder to sue builders, which partisan said was driving up home prices, CSPR released a report on the high cost of housing and the barriers it creates for first-time or lower-income homebuyers.

In 2016, REMI provided economic analysis with the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado to CSPR on the effect of 2,000-foot setbacks on the oil and gas industry, which predicted such a rule would cost the state $11 billion a year in gross domestic product and 62,000 jobs.

CSPR also provided a dim view of a raising the minimum wage hike, noting in a last year report, “This increase would likely harm the Coloradans who need the most help with employment and income opportunities.”

Brown’s work for REMI has included modeling the fiscal and economic impacts of the Medicaid expansion in eight states, as well as providing an economic model to the state of California about a regulation program. He’s analyzed a federal tax proposal for the U.S. Senate and forecast the economic effects of budget sequestration for the centrist think tank Third Way.

“Over the last six years, CSPR has established a sterling reputation in the public policy arena by providing dynamic modeling and fact based research impacting the Colorado economy,” Kristin Strohm, CSPR’s executive director, said. “Adding Chris to our team will immediately expand our capacity to engage in issues and offer policy makers additional models and studies.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a comment from Kristin Strohm.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 27, 20176min1210
Graduates pick up high school diplomas and college credit at Colorado Early Colleges. (coloradoearlycolleges.org)

 

At a time in life when most former politicians are simply enjoying (or resenting) their retirement; when most successful entrepreneurs are savoring the fruits of their toils, Keith King has bolder aspirations. King, who has distinguished himself both in business and in public office, is shifting into high gear in his longtime quest for education reform.

His Colorado Early Colleges charter school — which he founded in Colorado Springs and still runs daily — has expanded to three other other campuses along the Front Range. It is in many ways the culmination of his decades of education advocacy as an elected official.

We caught up with the 69-year-old Republican former state senator this week for one of our “Q&A” sessions — you’ll see it published soon — and got a bonus update on King’s innovative charter program. It affords ninth- through 12th-graders a chance to concurrently enroll in college as they attend high school. Students can graduate high school with associate’s degrees or even bachelor’s degrees from an accredited college. Some 2,400 students will be enrolled once the latest Early Colleges campus opens this fall in Aurora. The students are as diverse as their ambitions; some were college-bound from the cradle while other may have thought they wouldn’t even make it through high school.

King, a onetime high school shop teacher who also has served in the Colorado state House (where he was majority leader), on the Colorado Springs City Council and on his local school board at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, now bears the unassuming title of administrator at CEC.

“We tell kids you can accomplish things you never thought possible,” King tells us in the forthcoming Q&A. “We are teaching them you can choose to be successful if you want to be successful.”

He still has plenty of the policy maven in him from his legislative days; King is widely respected as an education wonk and remains a go-to source on the dizzying complexities of policies like the annual School Finance Act. Just this spring, he was extensively involved in legislation at the Capitol that will give credit where it’s due to concurrent-enrollment programs like his for their ability to prepare students for college and work. Senate Bill 272, which was signed into law last month by Gov. John Hickenlooper, will tweak state law to let schools like Colorado Early Colleges cite their students’ college enrollment in meeting criteria for their annual accreditation with the state education department.

William Mutch, in Washington in January for the presidential inauguration. (Photo courtesy of William Mutch.)

The bipartisan legislation, forged by a broad coalition of stakeholders, was sponsored by Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Reps. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Paul Lundeen, R-Monument.

It turns out a member of the team that navigated the bill through the legislative process was another longtime presence at the Capitol, William Mutch, and we wound up catching up with him, too. Mutch, a onetime chief of staff to then-Senate President John Andrews, was hired by Colorado Early Colleges to be its eyes and ears during the session.

“Lobbyists often prefer to deal with other lobbyists, and William did all of that initial work and paved the way for me,” King said.

Says Mutch, “For Keith, education is such a passion, and he had carried so many of the bills that are part of Colorado’s current system.”

Capitol insiders also may recall Mutch from his days running the shop at powerhouse business-advocacy group Colorado Concern; he has represented an array of groups at the Capitol, including home builders. He also has worked extensively in recent years on issues in Colorado Springs.


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Rachael WrightRachael WrightApril 27, 201712min154

Twenty Years Ago This Week in the Colorado Statesman … In a continuation of the battle for welfare reform, Gov. Roy Romer outlined his reason for vetoing House Bill 97-1166. “I am vetoing this bill because of one provision. That provision creates an irrational two-tiered system of welfare cash assistance benefits for our fellow citizens in Colorado who fall on hard times and need some short-term help to get back on their feet. That provision would allow for so-called ‘pilot-projects’ that would permit counties to be exempted from providing a minimum cash benefit to families.”