Creating jobs will be Hickenlooper’s biggest job

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John Hickenlooper is about to take the helm as governor of Colorado, and it’s no secret he’s got work cut out for him.

The outgoing administration was forced to cut $4.4 billion from the state budget, cuts that left gaping holes in education, transportation and economic-development funding.

Businesses around the state have felt the sting.

While the statewide recovery wish list is long, the thing we need most is more jobs.

Dave Csintyan, president of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, believes Hickenlooper has so far taken the right approach, at least in terms of developing a new vision for jobs-creation.

“Hickenlooper said he’s going to take a bottom-up approach to economic development,” Csintyan said. “I think that’s exactly what we need.”

Specifically, Hickenlooper, while in the Springs for the annual Mayor’s Breakfast earlier this month, announced that he plans to divide Colorado into nine economic development regions, each of which will communicate its needs to the state for development of a statewide job-creation strategy.

“That is absolutely refreshing to hear,” Csintyan said. “That kind of dialogue will create an enabling environment. It will give each county a chance to say what’s important to them.”

Of course, it’s only a start. The big question is whether the governor and the state legislature will address the state’s long-running issues resulting from the Gallagher Amendment, Amendment 23 and TABOR.

The three together create an environment that limits property taxes, mandates education funding levels and restricts year-over-year government spending.

“Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t mention that we have to do something about those issues,” Csintyan said.

Operating under the widely held notion that lower taxes attract businesses, Colorado has adopted some of the lowest overall tax rates in the nation.

But it’s an approach with questionable dividends. Just think about how well Boulder has done despite its higher-tax climate compared to the low-tax environment of the Springs.

Hickenlooper, the state legislature and voters might want to consider a recent University of Massachusetts report that shows the low-tax approach doesn’t really work. Rather, it found that tax cuts do little to create jobs and that spending on infrastructure and vocational training all help to raise employment. New roads and new skills, after all, can only help expand productive capacity.

We’re not advocating a sudden ratcheting up of taxes. But after years of budget cuts, it might be time to consider how careful spending on the right items might help boost jobs-creation in Colorado.