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Tax Break Study Bill Introduced At The Colorado Statehouse

Jim Hill

Under current state law Colorado provides 186 tax breaks ­— everything from vending machine food to dairy equipment, affordable housing, livestock feed, and fuel for light, heat, and power.

"I think it's worth us taking a look periodically to make sure we are being responsible to the tax payers with their tax money to say where is it being spent and are we getting a good return on the investment," said Representative KC Becker (D-Boulder).

With that in mind, Colorado lawmakers want to see whether the state is getting its money's worth from all those tax breaks designed to create jobs and boost the economy.

Becker said there's never been a review of all the tax breaks in law, some of them dating back to the 1930s.

"I sit on the finance committee and last year we had dozens of bills that were for new or renewing tax breaks, and I realized that we didn't have a systematic way to review them and it adds up to almost $5 billion annually in tax breaks to various causes or ideas," said Becker.

While no business groups outright oppose the measure, several remain neutral. Representative Lori Saine (R-Firestone), another backer of the bill known as House Bill 1205 [.pdf] along with Becker, said no one wants a tax break that they use taken away.

"I think some groups were a little nervous at first but we did assure them we're not going after a certain project by any means," said Saine, adding that she believes it could even end up helping certain industries. 

"We may extend those programs and put more of our energy and focus into those things that are working for Colorado," said Saine.

Some tax breaks should be removed from the books if they're no longer necessary though, Saine said. Under the bill, the state auditor would review all the tax expenditures and a bipartisan committee of mostly lawmakers would report back to the legislature and offer recommendations.

The committee would be ongoing and cost about $600,000 each year. There would be some exemptions from review such as groceries and sales to government entities and public schools.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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