Steamboat Springs State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, told the Routt County Board of Commissioners and a half-dozen constituents Tuesday afternoon that one of her primary goals for the upcoming legislative session is to work toward more legislation that benefits small businesses.
“My bills for this year are all focused on getting rid of red tape,” Mitsch Bush said, “getting rid of red tape and continuing with job training and small business incentive bills like HB-1287 (in 2013) extending the job growth incentive tax credit” for another five years.
Mitsch Bush told the commissioner she met that morning with the owners of a Steamboat Springs start-up who told her they were benefiting from HB-1287.
She is interested in new legislation to carry forward the provisions of last year’s HB-165, which allows community colleges to offer more bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and mechanical fields.
“Those are high-paying jobs,” Mitsch Bush said.
After wrapping up her freshman year in the Colorado State Assembly representing House District 26, which comprises Routt and Eagle counties, Mitsch Bush said she also is focused on legislation that would help small businesses use renewable forms of energy.
“I think we can tweak some existing bills making it easier for businesses to get involved in renewables,” she said. “But on the Front Range right now, those jobs are going to people from out of state. That doesn’t have to happen.”
She pointed to a new biomass plant set to open near Gypsum that would begin to eat away at her district’s over supply of standing dead timber while turning it into clean energy. A Hotchkiss-based company, West Range Reclamation, has a 10-year $8.66 million contract with the U.S. Forest Service to utilize the dead timber to generate more than 11.5 megawatts of electricity annually, most of which will go to nearby Holy Cross Energy.
Mitsch Bush, who was elected in 2012, was named the most effective first-year legislator by the nonpartisan Colorado Capitol Watch, based largely on her success in seeing all four bills she sponsored last year passed and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Two Republican candidates for her seat already have announced their intentions to run in 2014, including Chuck McConnell, whom Mitsch Bush defeated in 2012, and Steamboat Realtor Dave Moloney.
Mitsch Bush told the Board of Commissioners she was proud to have received bipartisan support for all four bills she sponsored last year. Similarly, she was proud of the consensus she built among energy industry groups for her keystone bill last year that reduced the threshold for reporting leaks at oil and gas wells from five barrels to one, while doing more to ensure local emergency managers are kept in the loop.
One of the bills she has in development for the 2104 session with state Rep. Dan Coram, R-Montrose, would make it easier for small property owners to build small-scale hydropower plants and even sell shares to associates and neighbors so they can reduce their own power bills, Mitsch Bush said.
As a member of the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, Mitsch Bush said, she’s interested in what the legislature can do to facilitate the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s task of developing a new long-term state water plan.
As a member of the Transportation and Energy Committee, she’s also keeping a close eye on Impact 64, a coalition of local government officials and business people modeled after the Western Slope advocacy group, Club 20, that is taking the temperature of Colorado voters on what new revenue they would support to better fund road maintenance in the state.
She observed that Colorado’s gas tax, which is relied upon to fund highway maintenance, is an excise tax and, unlike a sales tax, is not indexed to inflation. That means as the cost of building and repairing highways has gone up and motorists are consuming less gasoline, gas tax revenue has become inadequate for the task.
“Much of our infrastructure was built in the late 1960s or late '70s, and in many cases, roads and bridge are beyond a basic sufficiency rating, so we’re in a crisis,” Mitsch Bush said. “In Colorado, government cannot raise taxes, only the voters can raise taxes. It looks like it’s polling that sales taxes are more popular, which surprised me.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1
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