2020 Election, Business/Economy, Columnists, Jon Caldara, Uncategorized

Caldara: Have progressives muzzled business?

An important voice in Colorado politics has been muzzled this election season and I’m having trouble understanding if it’s because of their lack of optimism, lack of resources due to the COVID recession, or if the left’s cancel culture has just beat them into silence.

Colorado’s “business community” has gone AWOL this election. Have they deserted Colorado? If so, it’s kinda hard to blame them. They’ve been beat to hell during this progressive occupancy of Colorado.

Let’s take the most economically devastating question on the ballot, Prop 118, which creates a payroll tax to make a mandatory family leave insurance system run by the government, which of course always runs things better than the private market.

Prop 118 would create the most generous paid leave mandate in the country, and therefore the most expensive one, costing us a brand new 0.9% payroll tax which is allowed to grow to 1.2%, split between employer and employee.

According to analysis by the non-partisan Common Sense Institute this new state-run insurance plan could quickly become insolvent, requiring the tax to grow to 1.7%. In other words, this is going to be devastating for any business surviving on tight marginal profits.

Virtually none of the money to run this admittedly feel-good, but economically ruinous campaign is coming from Coloradans. It’s being paid for by out-of-state, “dark money,” progressive funders.

According to the latest campaign fillings with the Secretary of State’s Office, the “yes” campaign has amassed $3.4 million, of which $2.8 million has come from the progressive Sixteen Thirty Fund. Working Families Party, the Fairness Project, and the ACLU combined have put in nearly all the rest, about another $500,000. (BTW, anyone else remember when the ACLU was about protecting free speech, not raising taxes?)

The “no” campaign has raised a mere fraction of the out-of-state leftist’s dowry because Colorado business interests are missing from this fight.

A few years back, the all-powerful Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce raised about $8 million to push a failed roads and transit tax. But to fight this threat to the very existence of businesses throughout Denver and the state, they committed an insulting $25,000. (BTW, anyone else remember when chambers of commerce were about creating a pro-business environment, not raising taxes?)

The folks I’ve talked to in and around the anti-118 campaign are flabbergasted by the lack of commitment from the Colorado business community, which will take it in the shorts if this job-killing proposition passes. This is the one ballot measure that all Colorado businesses should rally to stop. Where are they?

First, they’re freaked out about making payroll this week. They are so busy dealing with the COVID lockdown recession they can’t think, much less invest, in what’s going to bring their business to its knees in a year or so.

But it’s the other factor I’m hearing about that is bone-chilling. Business owners are worried about retribution from a progressive state legislature, regulators and governor. They are worried winning at the ballot box will only mean getting beat up by the vitious blue wave at the State Capitol.

This is the chilling effect of the cancel culture at its worst. People are afraid to engage in the political system for fear of retaliation.

It’s not so different from some of the people you might know who’d like to put a Trump bumper sticker on their car but won’t because they don’t want it to get vandalized.

Just look what happened to the oil and gas industry for taking a political stand. Two years ago, oil and gas spent some $50 million, including running other initiatives, to stop Prop 112, which would have required well sites to be at least 2,500 feet from any buildings.

Prop 112 was defeated handily. And what did it matter? Colorado’s progressive legislature and governor just did it anyway with Senate Bill 181, which is going to require a 2,000-foot set-back coming from a whole new, much-more burdensome regulatory structure.

Oil and gas would have been better off saving all their money and not fighting Prop 112 to begin with. At least they would have had $50 million for their relocating expenses as they’re driven out of the state.

Has the business sector in Colorado been so abused that their beleaguered attitude is now “why even bother”?

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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