GLENWOOD SPRINGS — From freeing up capital and lowering the regulatory bar to increasing guest worker visas and supporting development of domestic energy resources, there are opportunities to grow business and create private-sector jobs in western Colorado, 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton said during a Wednesday visit with local business owners.
Regulatory requirements, in particular, are hurting small businesses, Tipton, R-Cortez, said during a small business roundtable sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and held at the Colorado Mountain College building downtown.
“Currently, businesses are faced with $1.8 trillion just in compliance costs nationwide,” Tipton said. “That’s money that could be going to wages and reinvestment.
“We need to have some consistency, because the bar just keeps moving up,” he said.
Tipton spoke to a gathering of about a dozen local business owners and business organization representatives, covering issues ranging from lending law and immigration reform to legislation seeking a sales tax on Internet purchases and prospects for a federal gas tax increase.
Earlier in the day, Tipton also spoke at the Energy and Environment Symposium held at Grand River Health Center in Rifle where he highlighted his efforts to pass his “all-of-the-above” Planning For America’s Energy Future bill.
The energy industry in particular is overburdened by regulation, he said during the Glenwood meeting, summarizing some his points from the earlier talk.
“We have some real challenges to overcome to be able to open up access to energy jobs,” Tipton said. “These are jobs that can allow people to earn a good wage so they are able to buy a house and spend money in our communities.”
Contrary to criticism that the bill is too heavily focused on development of fossil fuels, Tipton said his strategy is to provide incentives for development of renewable resources as well such as solar, wind and geothermal energy.
At the Glenwood roundtable, Mark Gould, owner of Gould Construction, asked about the prospects of convincing Congress to support an increase in the federal gasoline tax to help rebuild the nation’s highway infrastructure.
“It’s an issue for this country as a whole to keep up the infrastructure so that businesses can roll down the road,” Gould said.
Tipton said the chances of a gas tax increase are “probably zero.” However, with more and more vehicle fleets and private vehicles converting to compressed natural gas-powered vehicles, there’s an opportunity for new revenues into the federal Highway Users Tax Fund, he said.
“I think we will continue to see a move to natural gas,” Tipton said. “It is better environmentally, and as we look at that conversion we do need to consider our ability to pay for roads.”
Carl Moak, owner of Summit Canyon Mountaineering, questioned the status of federal legislation aimed at extending local and state sales taxes to Internet purchases of goods.
“As a retail business owner, we fight the Internet sales, and it’s a big impact to local communities when people are not paying the local sales tax,” Moak said. “It’s a loophole that never should have been created in the first place.”
Tipton said he would look into the latest proposals regarding that, but also offered that any efforts to increase taxes are going to be a tough sell.
Gould offered that the other way to address the issue is to allow businesses the ability to be able to pay a living wage to workers. That way, they can better weigh the decision to buy local and pay sales taxes that support local services, or to save a little money and buy online, he said.