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Tax exemption bills in the Senate

This week the Senate passed nine bills to remove tax exemptions for certain businesses.

Even though the bills eliminate only 6 percent of all tax exemptions currently enjoyed by big businesses around the state, I voted against all the bills except two.

I heard from you, and listened, and because of your opposition I could not justify voting for the majority of them. However, I will tell you why I voted for two of these bills.

House Bill 1193 establishes the grounds on which Colorado can collect sales tax from out-of-state online retailers. I was hesitant about this bill until the Senate made several key improvements. Initially, the bill relied on affiliates (online businesses that direct consumers to other online retailers) to enforce the collection of sales tax from companies like Amazon. As a result, Amazon and other retailers threatened to sever ties with local affiliates to avoid paying sales tax which would have been devastating for small internet businesses in Colorado. After hearing compelling concerns from small affiliate businesses, we removed affiliates entirely from the bill. As a result, the affiliates sent us a letter saying how supportive they were of the bill. I also heard from a number of local retailers in our district who think it is unfair that they are charged state sales tax but online retailers who do business in Colorado are not. We should be pro-Colorado businesses, and out-of-state retailers should play by the same rules our small local businesses play by. This bill will establish a level playing field between our local retailers and large online retailers like Amazon. By protecting small local businesses, we will strengthen the economy in our state and help resolve our current budget problems.

House Bill 1192 removes the tax exemption currently enjoyed by some software manufacturers. When you buy software for your home computer, you pay a sales tax on it. It’s unfair and wrong that big businesses get a break for the same purchase. Eleven other states have similar taxes on software sales and many, like Texas and Massachusetts, are viewed as the nation’s leaders for software development. Colorado is currently ranked the fourth best state in the country to do business based, in part, on our favorable tax provisions. We have been able to attract software companies because of our long established high quality of life, outstanding educational research institutions and strong public services. In order to preserve the climate that attracted and grew these businesses, we must protect our core public services like education and health care.

I also received a number of calls, e-mails and letters in opposition to two bills that I voted against: HB 1195 and 1190 will have negative effects on agricultural providers in our district. 1195 eliminates tax exemptions for agricultural products and HB-1190 eliminates the tax exemption on energy. I worked hard to include an amendment in 1190 to keep the energy tax exemptions for fuel (off-road diesel, electricity, coal and gas) purchased for agricultural purposes. The new amendment will save the agricultural community more than $5 million in energy costs. We need to support our ag community to support a strong economy in Colorado.

On Saturday of last week, I hosted my first two town halls in Ridgway and Silverton. I greatly enjoyed talking with everyone present. The other enjoyable part of the week was being a Senate co-sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 12 which honored Colorado’s Olympians. I said a few words about our Olympian from Durango, Lanny Barnes. Best of luck to Lanny and all of our Coloradan Olympians!