Being a state legislator during a pandemic is demanding enough. Add to that chairing the finance committee in the Colorado House of Representatives. Yet, state Rep. Shannon Bird from Westminster …
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Being a state legislator during a pandemic is demanding enough. Add to that chairing the finance committee in the Colorado House of Representatives.
Yet, state Rep. Shannon Bird from Westminster isn’t intimidated. In fact, given her background as a public finance attorney, she feels equipped for the brand-new role during an unprecedented moment in the state’s economy. The state General Assembly will return for the legislative session on Feb. 16.
In a one-on-one conversation with Colorado Community Media, Bird talks about her priorities on the committee that will deal heavily with taxes.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Colorado Community Media: As chair of the finance committee, what will you focus on this legislative session?
State Rep. Shannon Bird: Tax policy is a big deal. In Colorado, we have some really unusual tax policy. Think about the TABOR amendment to our constitution, flat tax and all kinds of restrictions on how we can collect revenue. We also have a really complicated local tax structure with cities, towns and special districts. Everybody has their own complicated web of how we pay for things. Nobody wants to spend too much money to get things done. But we do want things done competently. So, that’s my goal and to make sure we’re being smart about it in Colorado.
CCM: What does that look like this year, especially given the current state of the economy?
Bird: At the end of the last legislative session, there was a large bill to undue several large, big business tax credits. The challenge, though, is while some of that might sound good, those kinds of changes have to be done thoughtfully. Right now, the economy is not great. We want businesses to get strong again and we want them to hire people again. So, any changes we make to businesses’ relationship with the tax code has to be thoughtful and done in a way that doesn’t jeopardize their ability to succeed. So, they can be healthy and employ people.
CCM: Does that translate to overall greater leniency with tax incentives?
Bird: It means more thoughtful incentives. To the extent an incentive exists that doesn’t serve our state’s purposes anymore, then maybe that needs to go away. There’s also a strong case that when a tax incentive is done thoughtfully, many times, the benefit is to encourage the private sector to do things in the private interest. There can be tax credits that incentivize businesses, for example, to choose Colorado for their corporate headquarters. At that corporate headquarters, they are now going to hire 300 people and give them really good-paying jobs. It will be incumbent upon us as we look at these things to make sure that we don’t look at a tax credit in a vacuum.
CCM: How has your background prepared you for this unique moment in this unique position?
Bird: My background is in finance. I’m a public finance attorney and also have done lots of corporate and commercial finance work. I’m glad I’m on the finance committee. It takes advantage of my own technical competencies and passions of mine to make sure that we do things the right way.
Also, too much in the way people talk about business, especially in some circles, it is, `businesses are always wealthy, they’re always rich, tax them.’ That’s just not always the case. Business is an opportunity for us. I think my background just shows me that issues aren’t always black and white.
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