Small business group gives Legislature B- for latest session

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tony Gagliardi NFIB

Tony Gagliardi NFIB

If Tony Gagliardi were a teacher assigning a grade, he’d give the Colorado Legislature a B- for its latest session.

The state director of the National Federation of Independent Business said he was pleased with passage of measures increasing the exemption for personal property tax paid by businesses and creating a task force to study ways to simplify sales and use tax collections.

Other measures the small business advocacy group opposed were killed, including a plan to create a state-sponsored retirement savings account.

“Does that mean everything went well? No it does not,” Gagliardi said.

He said he was especially frustrated legislation affording small businesses regulatory relief wasn’t enacted. “That was a disappointment.”

A small business advocacy group, the NFIB represents 350,000 members nationwide and about 7,000 in Colorado.

Legislation coming out of the session that will benefit small businesses includes a measure that allows businesses to exempt up to $18,000 in such business personal property as computers and desks with a state tax credit. The exemption was $7,300.

The increase was part of a deal to reclassify the state hospital provider fee into a government-owned enterprise that avoids constitutional limits imposed by the so-called Taxpayers Bill of Rights but also lowers the state revenue limit by $200 million.

Gagliardi said he welcomed the increase in the exemption. But he also said he still holds out hope the business personal property tax ultimately will be eliminated since it costs more to collect the tax than what’s remitted.

Another measure creates a task force to study ways to simplify the collection and reimbursement of sales and use taxes, including the possibility of a single point of collection and remittance.

Gagliardi said Colorado operates one of the most complicated and inefficient tax collection processes in the country with more than 700 taxing districts in the state. That imposes additional paperwork and costs on businesses. Comprised of members of the Legislature and state and local tax experts, the task force is expected to offer recommendations early in 2018, he said.

Still other measures the NFIB opposed during the session were killed, Gagliardi said.

A so-called “ban the box” measure would have prohibited companies from asking job applicants to check a box on forms if they have a criminal background, although it wouldn’t have stopped employers from conducting background checks or asking applicants about their backgrounds in interviews.

Gagliardi said small businesses often don’t have time to conduct background checks or an extended interview process in filling a job opening. Moreover, research has shown banning the box can decrease employment for minority men who don’t have criminal records, he said.

The NFIB also opposed a measure that would have set up a program to enroll small business employees in state-administered retirement accounts funded by payroll deductions.

At the same time, though, Gagliardi said he was disappointed another measure failed.

The measure required that when a state agency determines a small business commits a minor violation of a rule, rather than impose a fine, the agency notifies the business in writing and gives the business 30 days to cure the violation. The measure wouldn’t have applied to violations that threaten public health, but to minor violations that often occur inadvertently, Gagliardi said.

The NFIB will continue to support efforts to enact such legislation to afford small businesses regulatory relief, he said.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has scheduled its annual legislative wrapup breakfast for 7:30 a.m. May 23 at the Clarion Inn, 755 Horizon Drive. Admission is $15 for members, $23 for others. For reservations or more information, call 242-3214 or visit www.gjchamber.org.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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