Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 20, 20176min1970
Jeff Wasden

President Trump visited Springfield, Missouri and laid out his plans for reforming our nation’s outdated, complex and uncompetitive tax system. The president’s plan is built around an America-first tax system that is focused on jobs, increasing wages and wealth in America, and restoring the American dream.

The Business Roundtable conducted a survey of their CEOs and 90 percent responded that delaying tax reform will harm the U.S. economy by causing slower economic growth, hiring, and capital investment. Fifty-seven percent of the responding CEOs say delaying tax reform means their company will delay capital spending, the investment that drives jobs and growth. Fifty-six percent say their companies will delay hiring plans.

President Trump believes lower taxes and higher wages will result in a better life for all Americans and make the American dream more accessible than ever before. The Colorado Business Roundtable enthusiastically endorses a tax-reform plan that: simplifies our tax code in a way that is fair to all Americans; leads to job creation and higher wages; provides tax relief for the working and middle class, and paves the way for repatriation of funds parked off-shore back to the United States.

Our current tax code has increased in length and complexity so that 94 percent of U.S. taxpayers needed some form of help to file their returns, according to National Taxpayers Union, and 91 percent of small businesses hired a professional to do their taxes, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Taxpayers spend over 6 billion hours annually complying with the tax code, according to the IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service. Complying with current tax code — which is six times longer today than it was in 1955 — places a $262 billion burden on the economy.

Colorado’s economy depends on 892 U.S. companies that actively operate internationally, competing in global markets on a daily basis for inputs, capital and customers. These globally engaged companies directly and indirectly contributed $148.8 billion to the Colorado economy in 2013, according to a Business Roundtable report. Focusing on tax reforms that benefit Colorado workers; that are simple and fair; that set a competitive rate that drives job creation and higher wages, is something every Coloradan should champion.

“If we don’t have tax reform sometime this or early next year, a lot of the business investment that’s been predicated on getting tax reform done will have been poorly made,” said J.D. Foster, senior vice president and chief economist at the U.S. Chamber. “Business investment will likely contract significantly, and we will have a significant period of economic weakness in my opinion.”

Our economy is healthy when we grow at roughly 3.5 percent. Since 2007, it has been below 2.5 percent consistently. Significant and generational tax reform is at the core of President Trump’s plan to return to over 3 percent growth. A 3 percent growth rate will yield a nominal gross domestic product that is $16 trillion larger, generate $2.9 trillion in federal government revenue, and raise wages and salaries of American workers by $7 trillion, according to administration estimates.

Fixing our broken tax code for families, small businesses, workers and job creators is the single most important action we can take to grow our economy and help the middle class get ahead. If we are successful in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make taxes simpler, fairer and lower for hard-working Colorado families, we can encourage entrepreneurs to reinvest in their businesses and American companies to bring back jobs and profits trapped overseas.

“CEOs overwhelmingly believe that tax reform is the most effective way to put more Americans to work in a stronger, growing economy. The Trump administration’s recent release of its tax proposals was a significant step forward as they work with Congress on pro-growth reform legislation. By demonstrating the importance of tax reform to business and the U.S. economy, these survey results confirm that tax reform is a critical priority if we are to grow the economy and create jobs and opportunity,” said Business Roundtable President and CEO Joshua Bolten.

Colorado Business Roundtable strongly encourages our congressional delegation, leadership, and the administration to pass meaningful and permanent tax reform. If you are interested in joining business leaders, chambers and associations in advocating for a fairer, simpler and more competitive rate, please contact us at jwasden@cobrt.com


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 14, 20175min213
The U.S. secretary of education toured the Air Force Academy campus, chatted with cadets over lunch and even hopped into the cockpit of a T-53 aircraft training simulator during a visit to the school on Wednesday. But if Betsy DeVos shared any ideas about her vision for America’s education system, it wasn’t apparent. The academy […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 31, 20175min411

Poor Jason Glass.

The Jefferson County Schools sooper, just hired a few months ago, seems to have stumbled into a sticky situation in the wake of the recent violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In a well-intentioned email to parents the other day, Glass offered assurances the district, “will work to ensure that we meet the social/emotional needs of students impacted by this event.”

He continued:

While this presents challenges, it also brings the opportunity to engage students in an authentic and timely learning experience on issues relating to free speech, tolerance, race, leadership, and historical context.

District curriculum and instructional staff have prepared resources to support our teachers in deciding how they will engage with students on this event and related topics. We entrust our classroom teachers and building principals to make professional decisions about the age-appropriateness of these discussions, as well as when and where activities related to this learning might take place. Instruction will be within the Board-adopted content standards and curricula, and will follow the usual district processes related to teaching controversial topics and alternative learning activities. …

It was an attempt to calm the waters in the wake of a news event that had been the talk of the nation. Certainly, among adults. Whether it stirred similar concern among school-age kids is of course open to question. In any event, as Chalkbeat Colorado’s Ann Schimke reports this week, Glass’s effort at outreach drew plenty of effusive praise from parents — but also push-back:

In response to a request from Chalkbeat, Jeffco officials provided 63 messages sent to the district after Glass’s statement was posted on the district’s website and sent home as a letter to parents. The district redacted the senders’ names and email addresses. …

About two-thirds of respondents thanked or otherwise lauded Glass for his statement. …

… not everyone was complimentary.

One parent wrote, “I’ll continue to teach my kids values. Please place your focus on Math and English. Once you’ve done that well, you can become concerned with civics and ethics. Stop doing a poor job at many things and focus on doing a few things well.”

Another wrote, “This should be a very easy lesson to teach. On(e) racist drove his car into another group of opposing racists. Thats what my kids were taught. No need for you to worry about it.”

Some of the parental input was even more pointed:

…your response to the community seems curious. An isolated event that happened on the other end of our large nation seems to have compelled you to alarm parents about what exactly? In what manner have there been “subsequent reactions” that have impeded educational institutions anywhere? This seems to our family a thinly veiled opportunity to further a political agenda on your behalf.

And as Schimke points out, some of the criticism appeared to come from the other end of the political spectrum, as well:

…is there a problem with calling Trump out by name? How can this be treated as a learning opportunity without the willingness to approach it with complete honesty? And please don’t tell me that you want to keep politics out of it. This is NOT a Democratic/Republican problem. It is VERY definitely a Trump problem. It is not a political issue, it is an issue of hate. …

Pity the school superintendent who tries “to keep politics out of it.” He’ll just wind up catching it from both sides. Especially — as the criticism here seems to suggest — when the hapless administrator stands accused of having opened the can of worms in the first place. Alas, it seems there are always parents on both sides of any issue who are all too willing to use their local schools as a venue for venting national politics.

Maybe the front office staff at Jeffco schools headquarters can file this one under, “No good deed goes unpunished.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 24, 20174min230

Last weekend subscribers read in Colorado Politics’ Insights column about the threats a federal study of the energy grid, expected to bolster coal, posed for our state, rich in renewable energy programs and natural gas.

The report was released Wednesday night, and as expected it said the grid needs to be fed by reliable coal because killing the market for it threatens the reliability of the power grid.

That part wasn’t surprising from a Trump administration that promised to return coal mining jobs to Colorado to make energy and steel. Trump promised that before the election in Pueblo, a town that knows steel jobs and high energy prices.

The 187-page report, however, said it’s economics killing the coal market. It isn’t regulations or renewables, despite what Republican politicians, allege but cheaper, abundant natural gas. Colorado sits on a huge supply of that.

Insights: Rick Perry’s energy grid study holds shocks for Colorado

The remedy, according to the report: ease up the regulations on coal-fired power plants, even as plants have been replaced across the country by gas-fired plants and broad investments in renewable energy programs.

In 2004 Colorado lawmakers ordered investor-owned utilities to get 30 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, and two Democratic candidates for governor, Jared Polis and Mike Johnston, have vowed to drive toward 100 percent by 2040.

Jim Alexee, the Sierra Club’s Colorado chapter director, told Colorado Politics that the state is getting far more jobs out of renewable energy than it currently gets from mining.

“If politics or corporate special interests make their way into the final report, energy customers here in Colorado may well be left on the hook to prop up expensive coal plants that cannot compete with cleaner, cheaper alternatives,” he said. “We should listen to the scientists, not corporate special interests.”

Perry requested the 60-day study in April, and environmentalists and energy officials alike have been awaiting its delayed release.

The move away from coal to new, cleaner gas-powered electricity generation is cited as a reason for soaring energy prices in Pueblo and other communities in Colorado served by Black Hills Energy.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and President Barack Obama introduced plans and regulations to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, a culprit of climate change. Their policies discouraged investments in coal-fired power plants for the sake of solar and wind projects.

Hundreds of old plants and dozens of nuclear reactors have closed.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 24, 20173min80

He may have voted against Coloradan Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, but Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet came home today in support of another Colorado appointee by the Trump administration. Granted, it was at best qualified support for West Slope native cum Beltway insider David Bernhardt, a Republican lawyer-lobbyist whom Bennet and his Senate colleagues confirmed 53-43 to the No. 2 post at the Interior Department under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Environmental groups, among other stakeholders in Bennet’s party, had raised ethics questions about Bernhardt’s ability to remain above the political fray in his new post at Interior given his years of lobbying on issues pertinent to the department. Thus, this muted public statement by Bennet issued by his press shop:

“We are counting on Deputy Secretary Bernhardt to uphold his commitment to protect Colorado’s forward-leaning methane rules and ensure we are not put at a disadvantage. We’re also grateful for his commitment to protect Colorado’s public lands. We look forward to having him back in Colorado so he can put these words into action.”

Holding him to “his commitment” on methane standards; waiting for him to put his “words into action.” Trust but verify. All very arms-length.

By contrast, here was Republican junior U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s ringing endorsement:

“David Bernhardt is a native Coloradan from the Western slope who has a deep understanding of Western land issues and will do what is right for the American people when it comes to our public lands … I’ve known David for many years and know he is the right man for the job. His command of public policy and experience working in the Interior Department will be an enormous asset to Secretary Zinke and I look forward to working with David on issues important to Colorado as he assumes his new role.”

Pretty much as far apart as one can get and still be on the same side of the vote tally.

 


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 29, 20174min131

On the same day they heard Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke bemoan a “breach of trust” between the public and the federal government in the West, the region’s governors called for changes in a federal law they say bears some of the blame for that breach.

The Western Governors Association adopted a resolution at their annual meeting in Whitefish, Montana, Tuesday endorsing the much-debated Endangered Species Act — but seeking tweaks that would provide checks and balances. Notably, they want Congress to expand states’ role in applying the act, and to clarify goals for recovery of species protected under the act.

That drew backup applause today from a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based stakeholders’ group that has a substantial Colorado following and had a hand in shaping the initiative, the Western Landowners Alliance. It released a statement by Executive Director Lesli Allison that read in part:

“We commend WGA for the thoughtful and bipartisan process they undertook to explore ways to improve wildlife conservation and the Endangered Species Act. In particular, we are appreciative of the recognition of the important roles landowners play in wildlife conservation and the need to support their voluntary stewardship efforts. We believe a collaborative approach to habitat conservation is the best way to keep additional species from reaching a state of threatened or endangered. … We agree with the Western Governors that the principles and intent of the ESA are sound and we believe improvements to its implementation could benefit both species and working lands.”

The Alliance, established in 2011, says its mission is, “…to advance policies and practices that sustain working lands, connected landscapes and native species.”

The predominantly Republican, 22-state governors association also includes Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and five other Democrats. The vote count on the resolution wasn’t made public, according to the Associated Press; presumably, at least some of the Democrats dissented.

As expected, environmental groups took a dim view of the governors’ resolution.  The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, for example, weighed in with a blog post headlined, “Western Governors Ass’n Seeks to Undo Endangered Species Act.” Here’s the organization’s blogger Elly Pepper:

At the Western Governors Association’s biannual meeting in Whitefish, Montana today, the governors passed a resolution that would undermine the Endangered Species Act—one of our nation’s most important laws.

The governors claim they “applaud the principles and intent” of the Act and simply want to “improve” it. But they – and we – know that amending the law in the current political climate would incur significant harm on imperiled species and, likely, lead many to disappear forever.