Colorado Springs represents what the rest of Colorado can and should become — a place of good jobs, charity and growing wages that benefit all. Legislators, the incoming governor, and local politicians throughout the state should study the Springs and seek similar results.
In nearly every measure, the Springs and surrounding metro area provide opportunities for all — including the poorest among us. The local economy produces wealth adequate for public-private partnerships to build shelters and services for the homeless at historic rates.
Wallethub ranked Colorado Springs last week the fifth-best city in which to find a job in 2019. It is only the latest in a long list of national surveys that reveal our community’s economic and cultural vitality.
The business-friendly ranking comes after U.S. News & World Report ranked Colorado Springs the second-best big city in which to live, and the number one city in the country people would choose if given unlimited choices.
None of this happened by default. Our city’s desirability results from economic growth, which city government chose to fuel with strategic tax policies and reduced regulations.
Mayor John Suthers partly credits the city’s decision a few years ago to phase out the business personal property tax. It added costs to new equipment a business chose to invest in.
“It was pretty tough to explain to businesses here (that were) thinking about expanding and businesses thinking about moving here,” Suthers said, as quoted by Gazette business writer Rich Laden last summer. “Frankly, it wasn’t worth the $2 million in revenue.”
Suthers also credited the city’s Rapid Response Program, enacted by former Mayor Steve Bach, which helps new and growing businesses navigate regulatory barriers. The Rapid Response Team claims to have reduced by half the amount of time businesses spend getting approvals and permits.
The city’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created “Opportunity Zones,” which attract businesses that create good jobs. The zones offer tax incentives to attract long-term investment in areas with high unemployment and poverty. The U.S. Department of Treasury has designated eight opportunity zones within the metro area.
These measures and more have created a culture of success. Voters enacted a transportation tax in 2015, but the money goes only to projects they approved.
On the national scene Friday, the Labor Department showed significant employment gains across nearly all industries. Competition for labor drove an hourly wage increase of 0.4 percent in December, which followed a wage increase in November. Despite a volatile stock market, employment and wage data locally and nationally support arguments that reductions in taxes and regulations lead to better jobs, higher wages and economic growth.
Gov.-elect Jared Polis tells us a 3-5 percent income tax cut was “a big part of my campaign,” mostly downplayed and ignored by the media. His inauguration theme, at his swearing-in Tuesday, will be “Colorado for All.”
A member of Polis’ team told The Denver Post the theme encapsulates “a commitment to govern the state from corner to corner.”
No one can argue with a commitment to govern in the interest of every individual, without regard for race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or geography. The Polis we know runs in a diversity of circles, including those that challenge his views.
By some measures, Colorado has the hottest economy in the country. Yet, large pockets of the state aren’t feeling it. The best way Polis can govern for all is to cut taxes and follow Gov. John Hickenlooper’s lead in reducing regulations. Polis should lead by showing legislative Democrats the benefits of allowing businesses and workers to succeed.
Deregulation and tax cuts help the rich, the poor and the middle class. The cause/effect has been shown throughout history. There is no such thing as economic growth that helps only members of one political party or one particular class. Reasonable and consistent economic growth is like a light steady rain. It helps all crops; not just rich-farmer crops, poor-farmer crops, Democrat crops or Republican crops.
Polis understands money, business, and the social benefits of economic growth. That’s why he ran on a barely heard message of cutting our taxes. He wants Coloradans — hopefully all of them — to control more of what they earn.
As a skilled leader, he should lead his party to support this goal toward an ever-improving “Colorado for All.” For good ideas, Polis and the Legislature should study Colorado Springs — the most envied city in the country, and the country’s second-best place in which to live.
The Gazette editorial board