Colorado recently lawmakers Senate Bill 124, which seeks to cut the strings on tax incentive programs for tourism projects. As I explain in my recent op-ed in The Colorado Springs Gazette entitled “Tax incentive program is a misguided attempt to create jobs“:
Nearly 8 percent of Coloradans are unemployed and seeking a job, and with numbers like that it’s normal for policymakers to focus on job creation. However a misguided attempt to create jobs through tourism projects might be made worse by the recently passed SB 124. The projects were originally approved with strings attached to limit taxpayer risk and lawmakers seeking to cut those strings aren’t considering the consequences.
The bill would modify the Regional Tourism Act passed in 2009, which approved tax increment financing for six total tourism projects. The Regional Tourism Act stipulated that only two projects could be chosen over the next three years and SB 124 would remove that stipulation until officials reach the six project cap. Despite passage through the legislature:
… (T)he bill faces bipartisan opposition in the Legislature and from the Governor’s office. Officials at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade have also questioned SB 124, citing uncertainty over whether the program will work. Gov. Hickenlooper’s critique centers around the need for oversight provisions and accountability measures that demonstrate projects will attract out-of-state visitors.
The piece later details how the Pew Center on the States determined Colorado belongs among the bottom half of states “trailing behind” in accountability for tax incentive programs. The piece concludes:
As long as the state is in the business of doling out special treatment through the tax code, taxpayers might as well know what they’re getting for their money. SB 124 is an excellent opportunity for Gov. Hickenlooper to flex his famed pragmatism and send a message that now is not the time to cut the strings and set loose Colorado’s flawed tax incentive programs, it’s time to rein them in.