At a time when public-spirited Coloradans should be rallying together to help our state’s businesses get back into high gear, “progressive” Democrats at the State Capitol are instead practicing opportunism at its worst by slapping a fresh coat of paint on their pre-COVID agenda.
Just over two months ago, Colorado’s political leaders made a difficult choice that jeopardized the financial stability of its residents in order to save lives that were vulnerable to coronavirus. Those choices are water under the bridge, so we should charitably presume that officials acted in good faith to choose the lesser of two evils.
Still, nearly 500,000 Coloradans have lost their jobs, lifting unemployment to a record high. Some unemployed workers have no jobs to return to because their employers are out of business for good. Economists predict a 25% reduction in tax revenues to state government, reflecting an unprecedented collapse in real-world commerce.
Affected businesses and workers did nothing to bring this calamity on themselves. Surely, our elected leaders are now doing everything imaginable to help business survivors get back on their feet and to put Coloradans back to work?
Sadly, they are not.
Progressives are mindful to “never let a crisis go to waste” and that “anyone who robs Peter to pay Paul can count on Paul’s vote in the next election.”
So, when the legislature re-convened, progressive Democrats who control both the Colorado House and Senate unveiled bills to impose more burdens on business and on working families by:
• Proposing a law that presumes that someone who contracts coronavirus did so on the job. This arbitrary decision will pile untold costs on employers by driving up workers compensation insurance costs. Increase the cost of employing people, and any sensible business owner will eliminate jobs that aren’t economically essential.
• Instituting a new 3% tax on everyone who pays for their own insurance. This would help progressive politicians take credit for providing “free” insurance for others while sticking working Coloradans with higher costs.
• Requiring all employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. This appears to be the latest iteration of the family medical leave program that has been proposed for several years. Realizing that it costs more than state government can afford, bill sponsors now prefer to dump a new costly mandate on business. If progressive politicians care so much about working Coloradans, why are they making flesh-and-blood employees so much more expensive than kiosks, computers and automation?
• Encouraging employees to file “whistleblower” lawsuits about a business’s safety practices and guaranteeing their job security. This bill’s sponsor finds employers so loathsome as to create a legal presumption that the employer acted illegally, requiring the employer to prove its innocence.
“Welcome” to Colorado, where contingency-fee lawyers are presumed to be truthful and businesses are presumed guilty.
If those weren’t bad enough, progressive lobbyists want the legislature to impose an emergency tax increase which would fall disproportionately on employers.
Meanwhile, Democrat legislative leaders rejected a request by Republican state Sen. Jack Tate to introduce a bill protect businesses from dubious coronavirus lawsuits. Restaurant and shop-owners simply want to know that they can’t be sued by anyone claiming to have contracted COVID in their store. That’s common sense unless you hope to play jackpot justice by filing frivolous lawsuits.
Sadly, the few Democrat legislators who still care about job creation have been relegated to the back of the bus by Bernie Sanders disciples who believe society is divided between “the oppressed and the oppressors.”
Whether progressives increase the burden on business through higher taxes or mandated costs, their prescriptions for prosperity call to mind the wisdom of Winston Churchill who observed “that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
Mark Hillman served as Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.