Mixed Bag for Enterprise Zone Reform

February 29, 2012

(Denver) – Three bills that form part of House Democrats’ 2012 jobs package went before the House Finance Committee today. One bill survived.

Rep. Mark Ferrandino’s HB12-1241 passed on a 12-1 vote. The bill would create a task force to recommend reforms to the state’s enterprise zone system. One possible solution: automatic five-year reviews of enterprise zones. Money saved by cutting enterprise zone claims would be reinvested in other, more productive economic development programs.

HB12-1251, sponsored by Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Gunbarrel), would have placed a $500,000 cap on income tax credits granted to any single claimant. It was killed on a 7-6 party-line vote.

Rep. Jeanne Labuda (D-Denver) sponsored HB12-1260, which would have set the cap at $250,000. It died, 8-5.

Enterprise zones, originally designed to encourage development in depressed areas, now cover 70 percent of the state, and the list of enterprise zone tax credit claimants is dominated by big oil and gas companies that are drilling in the state not because they get a tax break, but because there’s oil and gas here.

A Denver Post study last year calculated that enterprise zones cost the taxpayers nearly $133,000 per job created.

“There’s ample evidence that our enterprise zone system has become bloated and inefficient,” said Rep. Ferrandino (D-Denver), the House Democratic leader. “We have to do something to make sure the state’s economic development dollars are producing the highest return on investment. I’m disappointed by the defeat of my colleagues’ bills, which would have made a real difference right away. But my bill takes a step in the right direction.”

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