Editor’s note: this is one in a series of guest op-eds by candidates for Colorado Governor written for CompleteColorado.com.
One of the toughest things I had to do as a leader in the Colorado Senate was face overtaxed, over-regulated small-business owners and tell them that, yet again, the Colorado General Assembly wasn’t going to do much to ease their burden.
These are the mom-n-pop shops and other small employers that offer so many Coloradoans career opportunities and account for the majority of the state’s employers. Often enough, they were constituents of mine, tangled in red tape, confounded by the latest wave of new regulations, or just plain overburdened by the regulatory weight of state government. Some were being fined arbitrarily for breaking rules they either didn’t know existed or had thought they understood—but didn’t. Many more simply were overwhelmed by paperwork, lost time and the overall cost of compliance.
I had to explain to them how, despite my best efforts—including my introduction in 2010 of a sweeping plan of action called the Blueprint for Leaner Government—John Hickenlooper wasn’t about to allow any meaningful reform to rein in his power of the regulatory hammer.
John Hickenlooper has paid only lip service to these concerns. He at one point promised action on thousands of suffocating rules and regulations enforced by his appointees. Yet, he has repealed only a handful of those rules—despite state audits that revealed duplicative and inefficient programs. And alongside all of that, incredibly, his appointees actually added another 14,000 pages of regulations in 2012 alone.
A serious, aggressive, in-depth and far-reaching reassessment of state government is needed—now. The last time Colorado assessed and restructured its government agencies most people had black and white TVs.
That is why I’ve made my Blueprint for Leaner Government a cornerstone of my campaign to be Colorado’s next governor. My Blueprint would trim back our bloated regulatory system and cut down the cost, size, and complexity of state government across the board.
It would implement a top-to-bottom review of all state agencies and the regulations enforced by them. It would examine every business regulation to see where bad rules could be fixed or eliminated. The blueprint also would look at each state agency and program to determine if it is duplicative; whether its work could be better performed by the private sector, and whether it should be eliminated altogether.
It is an ambitious plan, but then the circumstances require bold measures. The regulatory stranglehold on Colorado businesses is slowly crippling our state’s entire economy.
And it is getting worse. As the Denver Business Journal reported recently, the state created more than 11,000 new pages of rules in 2011 just before adding another 14,000 in 2012. This comes at a very high price. Over-regulation by our federal government costs small businesses $1.75 trillion a year, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While there is no hard number on the regulatory impact of Colorado’s rules and regulations on our state’s economy, without a doubt, the meter is running.
That is why we need a governor who has a vision and solutions. When elected, I will make reforming state government a top priority. Until there is change at the top, our state’s business climate—and the ability of small-businesses to offer career opportunities—will fall ever further behind.
We are losing ground every day; we need to lift the burden of regulations off of small-businesses now.
Former state senator Mike Kopp is a Republican candidate for Governor of Colorado.