Pro-union Gov. poses as business-friendly

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter checked off several wins on his business scorecard before members of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. "We were able to bat 1.000 on our business package," Ritter said at the chamber's annual State of the State luncheon, attended by more than 500 people at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

That package, unveiled last fall, sought to provide tax relief for businesses and more funding for emerging industries such as bioscience and clean energy.

Among the successes Ritter listed were a wider exemption from the business personal-property tax, the elimination of a tax on planes manufactured in the state and sold elsewhere, and changes that qualify more rural businesses for tax breaks tied to job creation.

Ritter said about 30,000 fewer businesses will have to pay the business personal-property tax.

But not everyone was as buoyant as the governor.

"Let's recognize it is only a first step and that alone it won't create any new jobs," Chuck Berry, president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, said later in an interview about changes to the tax.

A failed bill to exempt depreciated business assets from taxation would have had far greater impact, Berry said.

ConocoPhillips' decision to locate a training and research facility at the old StorageTek site in Louisville also was a huge win for the state, Ritter said.

Among other topic touched on by Ritter:

• Key education initiatives, including an overhaul of school standards, more funds to improve school buildings and higher-education scholarships.

• A business-backed right-to-work ballot initiative and competing labor-backed ballot measures could end in "mutually assured destruction" for the state unless both sides back down.

• A more comprehensive state health care package may be best tackled after a federal plan is proposed by the next president.

• Failure to secure additional funding for transportation represents a big disappointment in this year's legislative session, especially given that federal road funds face a significant cut.


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