Congeniality, not sparks, sets the mood at political breakfast

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Colorado has $1.6 billion extra to spend this year, said House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, and the state needs to devote dollars to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by this year’s flooding and wildfires.

At a legislative breakfast sponsored by the Colorado Springs Business Journal, DelGrosso appeared as a panelist, along with Colorado Springs representatives Bob Gardner, a Republican, and Democrat Pete Lee.

John Hazlehurst, CSBJ columnist and reporter, moderated the discussion.

All three panelists agreed that the most pressing issues pertain to the flooding and fires the state faced this year.

“Every bit of extra revenue we have will be dedicated to the flooding and fires,” Gardner said.

Lee said 90 percent of the bills in the last legislative session had bipartisan support.

“Unlike our counterparts in Washington, we actually do get along,” Lee said.

Flooding is non-partisan, Gardner added, echoing the others on the need to devote money to restoration.

The Cimarron Street-Interstate 25 interchange project stands to move forward next year, as it’s on the final list of projects to be funded, said Lee. Next Spring, the state expects to acquire right-of-way and start the design process of the project, he added later.

The three legislators underscored their support to improve the business climate in the upcoming session.

“I’m a simple pizza guy,” said DelGrosso, the owner of several Domino’s Pizza franchises. “If it’s not good for the pizza guy, it’s not good for business. I will continue to fight for the pizza guy.”

DelGrosso said he will oppose legislation that reforms workers compensation and any that would negatively affect the oil and gas industries.

There will be an attempt to reverse gun control legislation that passed last year, said DelGrosso, adding that he wouldn’t sponsor such legislation.

“There were a whole lot of issues the majority party was out of step with,” said Gardner.

Gardner said there are two ways people view jobs: government creates jobs; and jobs are created in the private sector and the lower the taxation, the better.

“We need to best enable you by staying out of your way,” Gardner said.

On the same topic, Lee said,“The best legislation we make in Denver is made in the middle.”

Responding to a Hazlehurst question on how the legislature can help unemployment in Colorado Springs, Gardner responded, “What happens in Colorado Springs happens as a result of what Colorado Springs does. The community has to do some things internally,” such as invest in education.

Hazlehurst asked the lawmakers, “If only one bill were allowed this session, what would it be?”

Given this scenario, Gardner said he would introduce an omnibus bill to improve the business climate in the state, which would include repealing the business personal property tax.

“Our focus has to be on jobs and the economy,” Lee said, adding he would not move to repeal the business personal property tax because that would hurt education.

DelGrosso said he would “sign a budget bill and go home,” because getting out of the way of business owners can often be most productive.

The Colorado Springs economy depends largely on the military, Hazlehurst said, asking the legislators what they could do to help the city forestall a decline.

“We don’t have to assume our economy is declining because the military is drawn down,” Gardner said. “World events will have more to do with that than anything we could do.”

Bolstering education and the Colorado Springs Airport would help the local economy, Gardner added.

Military spending is probably one-third of the Colorado Springs economy, Lee said, estimating between $5 billion and $7 billion is infused into the community from the military.

“We need to make Colorado the most military friendly state in the country,” Lee said.

Regarding the City for Champions Regional Tourism Act proposal for $82 million in state tax increment funding dollars, both Gardner and Lee said they support the proposal.