Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content McInnis takes jab at Ritter over tax hike proposal

CATHERINE TSAI Updated: February 15, 2010 at 12:00 am

DENVER — Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis took another swipe Monday at a proposal to start charging sales tax on candy and soda, saying he has better ideas for balancing the state budget.

The taxes, proposed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter as the state tries to close a $1.5 billion budget shortfall over two years, have passed the state Senate but must be voted on again by the House.

"What they're doing down there is they're not creating jobs. They're cremating jobs," McInnis told a few dozen employees at The Pepsi Bottling Group plant in Denver.

The Pepsi Bottling Group has said its sales could drop by up to 2.8 percent if customers have to pay more for soda, costing it 30 to 65 jobs. It has been e-mailing employees and encouraging them to write to state lawmakers to oppose the proposal.

McInnis, a former congressman, supports across-the-board spending cuts proposed by Republican legislators to balance the budget. In the past, he has said restructuring government, possibly combining departments, reducing inefficiency and refinancing property could lead to savings.

He also said Monday that oil and gas regulations that were rewritten under Ritter's watch to give more weight to the environment and public health should be rewritten again to encourage industry growth.

Some in the industry have blamed the new rules for a drop in drilling last year after natural-gas drilling activity that broke records in Colorado. Ritter, who isn't seeking a second term, has said the national recession and low natural gas prices are to blame.

McInnis' speech didn't address how reduced spending might affect jobs.

State lawmakers working to fill a $1.5 billion budget shortfall over two years have proposed charging a 2.9 percent state sales tax on things including candy and soda, downloaded software and pesticides. Another bill seeks to get online, out-of-state retailers like Amazon to start collecting state sales tax or tell their customers how much tax they owe the state.

They also propose suspending or limiting some income tax credits.

State Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry said tax hikes would kill jobs and dampen economic growth when the state needs all it can get.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat running for governor, has not taken a position on the proposals.

"As a businessman and as a public official, he's had to balance his own budgets and city budgets. He's never appreciated other officials weighing in on that process," said Ben Davis, a campaign spokesman.

He said once legislators finish their work, Hickenlooper will start promoting his ideas for balancing the budget in 2011.

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