Denver chamber to the Leg: ‘We’re coming in as strong as ever’

Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers and business friends Jan. 9 the chamber expects to exert its influence on big issues at the state Capitol this year, but always with small business in mind.

“We’re coming in as strong as ever,” Brough told legislative leaders and others gathered in the Old Supreme Court Chambers to hear the chamber’s legislative agenda for 2012.

She then spelled out the biggest business issues facing lawmakers: refunding the unemployment insurance trust fund, and deciding on the future of the state’s successful workers’ compensation system.

And in the realms of what the chamber considers the three “pillars” of an economically viable state government — health care, transportation and education — Brough made it clear the state’s largest business organization will continue to support a state health-insurance exchange, the funding of FasTracks, the metrowide light-rail public transportation system, and new methods of financing public schools and higher education.

“Our economy depends on their (students’) ability to graduate from high school,” she said.

Those are big issues that require public funding — tax money — which is always a sensitive issue for small business owners.

But Brough kept pointing out that Colorado is a state with a business community that is 90 percent small business, companies with 100 or fewer employees, including many, many one-man or one-woman shops. She suggested any solutions to the state’s economic problems must be crafted with that small business community top of mind.

Yet strangely, the only issue that was raised during the presentation that generated a mild debate was over a bill State Sen. Betty Boyd said would be introduced to give Colorado businesses and employers preference when it came to state purchasing contracts.

A questioner in the audience asked if Boyd had considered the downside of such legislation, and House Speaker Frank McNulty piped in, “The concern is a real concern.”

McNulty said if the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, passed such a bill it would get close scrutiny in the House, where Republicans hold a one-vote advantage. McNulty said such bills often create “hurdles” for business people who operate best with the least government interference.

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