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EDITORIAL: 'Magical' Colorado should learn to attract better jobs

By: The Gazette editorial
May 9, 2014 Updated: May 9, 2014 at 7:10 am
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The Huffington Post this week published an article declaring Colorado "The Most Magical State in America." Anyone who lives here knows it's true. Coloradans may be the only Americans who cannot wait to return home from distant vacations.

Reasons for the award include: 300 days of sun; beer, as home to more than 200 mostly sumptuous breweries; Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs; Smashburger; whitewater rafting; NORAD, because it tracks Santa from Colorado Springs; Red Rocks; four national parks, 42 state parks, 11 national forests; and elevation, which "just makes things more fun."

The list could go on ad infinitum. Huffpo didn't even mention the dozens of ski resorts in Colorado, or the Great Sand Dunes, Pikes Peak, Aspen, Telluride, the plethora of music festivals, the brook trout and relative dearth of biting insects.

What's puzzling is the fact our magical state continues losing to Texas, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota and several others in attracting the more enviable employers with high-wage payrolls. Given Colorado's sustainable advantages -God-given assets mere mortals cannot re-create - this should be the top destination for CEOs. Colorado should have the country's most enviable economy, not just the best lifestyle.

What lacks magic in Colorado is the government's increasingly burdensome regulatory structure, near-compulsory union memberships and the dominant political party's desire for an enormous tax hike.

Instead of the most magical state enjoying the best economy and most desirable new jobs, the honor more appropriately belongs to neighboring Utah.

The economy in Utah has expanded at an average rate of 2.3 percent since 2006, while the rest of the country's economy grew at 0.5 percent. In 2010, while Colorado's economy grew at 2.1 percent, Utah's grew at 3.4 percent. Forbes ranked Utah the "Best State for Business" for the third straight year in 2013. It frequently lands top employers, such as eBay and Oracle.

It's a right-to-work state, unlike Colorado. That means unions cannot force employees to join or give them narrow windows in which to opt out.

In 2012, Gov. Gary Herbert reviewed the state's 2,000 administrative rules and eliminated 368 determined as a "drag on the economy." As Colorado's Legislature raised energy costs in 2013, with a doubling of rural renewable mandates, Utah attracted businesses by flaunting rates 29 percent below the national average.

"Utah prospers due to a unified purpose and effort across all contributing economic entities. Its community leaders, from education to government, work harmoniously together to solve problems and to maximize powerful growth opportunities," wrote Alan Hall for Forbes. Sounds magical.

Utah is known more for traditional religion than pot, yet it has by far the youngest population in the country with a median age of 29. Among reasons Forbes lists for the state's success is the multilingual population, an attribute of faith.

"This is largely a result of the state's large population of LDS, many of whom spend time as missionaries overseas," Forbes explains. "Utah's language ability is an attractive benefit for companies in an increasingly global economy, and has helped lure large U.S. companies with international operations such as eBay, Goldman Sachs, Oracle and Procter & Gamble."

Colorado shouldn't be second-tier in terms of attracting good jobs. It's time for Colorado's political class to create the country's most attractive business climate in the country's most magical state. The blueprint can be found in a new book by economists and business leaders Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore, Rex Sinquefield and Travis Brown titled "An Inquiry Into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States."

In 341 pages, they conclude: "Almost every measure of economic prosperity at the state level - population, employment and beyond - is linked to taxation. Low-tax states in every region of the country are outperforming their neighbors. . These policies extend far beyond the personal income tax rate to include corporate income taxes, estate taxes, the overall tax burden, right-to-work laws, and much more."

Great beer and scenery are magical assets, indeed. But only good jobs put food on the table.

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