DENVER (AP) – Businesses on Tuesday lambasted a Democratic proposal that would give bidding preferences to companies that employ mostly Colorado workers for state projects, one of the highlights of the party’s job-creation plan this year.
Opponents of the bill told lawmakers they think the legislation is unnecessary and will create regulatory burdens on businesses. Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak, the bill sponsor, said the legislation is meant to bring jobs to the state.
“We should be looking at ways to ensure or incentivize these contracts go to people in Colorado so we can spend our state tax dollars to employ our state residents to perform state contracts,” she said.
The bill got its first approval in committee Tuesday on a party-line vote with Republicans voting no. The GOP-controlled House is likely to kill the proposal if it gets there.
The bill would give a bidding preference to companies for state service and construction contracts worth more than $1 million if they show that at least 90 percent of their employees are Colorado residents. The companies would get an additional edge in the bidding process if they provide health care and retirement benefits to workers.
Senate Democrats have heralded the bill as one of the main features of their agenda to spur job growth this session. Similar legislation sponsored by Democrats failed in the previous session.
“The purpose of this is not to create more regulation. It’s an incentive,” Hudak said.
But businesses told lawmakers that it will create regulatory burdens and potentially increase costs because companies with lower-priced bids could lose.
“It’s been kind of explained as a jobs bill but we would like to point out that there are no specific jobs and there’s no funding for projects included in the bill,” said Michael Gifford, with the Associated General Contractors of Colorado. He said the bill would add additional regulations to the contracting process, with state agencies having to add staff to check the residency of workers.
The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry also opposes the bill.
Supporters of the bill said it would lower the state’s unemployment rate.
Phil Hayes, the political and legislative director of AFL-CIO in Colorado, urged lawmakers to support the proposal and said that while no bill is perfect, opponents were not presenting alternatives.
“We haven’t seen any good-faith suggestions. That’s unfortunate,” he said.
Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts said she couldn’t support the bill because “businesses are looking for less regulation, not more.”
“So it’s kind of hard to improve on something that’s going 180-degrees from what I’m hearing,” she said.
LINK: Senate Bill 1
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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