If there is one recurring theme in the state Legislature, it's the division between Republicans and Democrats over the role of government. Serving in my third term as a legislator, I have been in countless debates over this issue and am always surprised how often Democrats are willing to inject more government into private sector issues.
This session, Democrats have introduced legislation addressing paid leave, retirement savings and helping people with criminal records find gainful employment. While I respect their intentions, each solution Democrats have proposed is a distortion of government and assumes that new bureaucracies are better at solving problems than employers, their employees and a free market. Even more concerning than this misappropriation of government, these legislative proposals are often harsh mandates, and include mechanisms to fine and punish noncompliance.
Take for instance House Bill 1305. This partisan bill is designed to provide more paid leave to employees by imposing a fee on every working Coloradan, implementing a government program that will require an appalling 250 state employees - paid for at taxpayer expense - just to manage the fund. According to the bill, every working Coloradan will be assessed a fee based on their income, and the program's director will have the authority to issue additional solvency fees as needed.
Paid leave is important, but rather than imposing a tax and creating a program, business owners should be able to offer paid leave as a benefit to their employees. Benefits help employers attract and retain the most skilled labor.
Businesses stay competitive not only within their industry but within the labor market as well by leveraging benefit opportunities. But a government leave program that supersedes the private sector forces all businesses to treat paid leave the same, marginalizing their competitive advantage.
Another example is House Bill 1290, the Colorado Secure Savings Plan. The bill creates a retirement savings program and mandates private sector employees to enroll in an automatic payroll deduction to force them to save money. Employers that fail to comply could be fined per infraction and per employee. Once again, I would argue creating a state-run program to force people to participate in a retirement plan is gross misappropriation of government. There are countless financial services companies, voluntary programs, resources and advertisements for retirement planning and savings.
The Colorado Senate is led by a Republican majority, and the two bills I've referenced - as well as many more proposals to grow and distort the role of government - have or will be defeated this year. But while I am comforted to see these bad-for-business bills defeated, I am concerned about the message they send to the business community. Companies looking to relocate to Colorado, or existing companies looking to grow, are certainly going to analyze our state's business climate. Even the mere discussion of mandates, fines, penalties and regulations can have an adverse impact on future business decisions.
We are nearing the end of this session, and House Republicans have fought tirelessly against this deluge of bad business bills. We continue to highlight where the free market is better suited to raise wages and improve working conditions.
Democrats philosophically disagree, but they need to know that even proposing this kind of flawed legislation still hurts Colorado's economy.
State Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, represents Colorado House District 14 and serves as the ranking member of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. Email Dan.Nordberg.House@state.co.us.