Colorado’s legislative Democrats might as well pass legislation ordering a recession. They should call it the “Yee-Haw, Let’s Have a Recession Act of 2019.”
In their recession bill, Democrats should budget to slash teacher salaries and other education costs. This will help pay for the $669 million in annual direct tax revenues their engineered recession could cost Colorado’s K-12 schools in the next few years.
The “Let’s Have a Recession Act” should account for the social and economic costs of jeopardizing 232,000 good jobs throughout the state. It should acknowledge and plan for losing up to $32 billion annually in economic output.
Democrats have passed the recession bill. They simply refrain from calling it anything like “Let’s Have a Recession.” Instead, they use a more innocuous title: The “Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations” act, otherwise known as Senate Bill 181.
The bill passed the House on Friday on a 36-20 party line vote, after passing the Senate on a 19-15 party line vote March 13.
Those most harmed by this engineered recession, led almost entirely by politicians in Boulder, do not live in Boulder. They are the working and middle-class, disproportionately minority residents of less glitzy communities that count on good jobs provided by oil and gas production. Think Commerce City, Globeville, Greeley and Mead.
Colorado’s oil and gas industry hires high school dropouts and Ph.D.s. Either can make six figures pulling fuel from the ground, even without speaking English.
“The Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations” act will flip a few key switches to activate our next recession.
It starts by imposing a moratorium on new oil and gas operations, as regulators work out details. That could take years. It means no growth in the industry sector that has played the biggest role in giving Colorado the country’s top economy. People will move here, as energy-sector job-growth stagnates.
The recession act will reconstruct the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which approves oil and gas operations, replacing energy experts with environmental activists hostile to fossil fuels. The law will instruct the commission to put “health and environment” concerns ahead of facilitating energy production, countering a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in January.
Of course, no human endeavor avoids potential “health and environment” effects. One cannot ride a bicycle, train or snowboard without affecting the public’s “health and environment.” The way this bill reads, state regulators can stop a proposed energy well if the plan involves sticking a shovel in the ground.
If that is not enough to kill one of our state’s top five industries, the bill empowers local governments to impose oil and gas sitings, arbitrary setbacks and other regulations. Local politicians will come under intense pressure to keep energy production from their communities. Not-In-My-Backyard politics will supersede the greater good of providing surplus energy, and all the jobs the industry supports, for Colorado and the rest of the country.
By inviting recession with SB 181, Democratic legislators gave Colorado voters the finger. Voters soundly rejected a ballot measure in November that proposed 2,500-foot setbacks to create more separation between oil and gas operations and homes, schools, commercial buildings and more. The setbacks, like the local control proposed in SB 181, left almost no surface area suitable for harvesting fuel. Voters knew and opposed the dire economic consequences.
The Gazette’s editorial board spoke with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis about this bill recently, asking him to veto it. He plans to sign it, declining to believe our concerns about running oil and gas production out of Colorado.
When signed into law, SB 181 will stall production. Worse, it will make Colorado’s regulatory environment too unstable for sustained oil and gas investment. No one will risk millions in oil exploration knowing permission to operate depends on quilt patterns of regulations that change with every local election.
We sincerely hope to be wrong about this bill, but fear we are not. If we are right, prepare for an economic downturn that hurts us all. This soon-to-be law could have us longing for the economic heydays of 2019.