Here are questions that small business owners must deal with just to survive, stay in business and grow.
What’s coming in today, and what’s going out? What’s the rest of the week/month/year look like? How do we need to change? Does our plan for the future make sense? Do we need more capital, or can we get by on what we generate from operations?
For most successful small businesspeople, those aren’t even conscious thoughts. Just as you don’t have think about how to walk, running a business soon becomes instinctive. That doesn’t mean that you just settle into an unvarying routine — you’re more like a marathon runner, always in training for competition.
It’s tough but exhilarating. You make the decisions, do the work, and reap the rewards. But despite your efforts, you don’t control your fate. You’re here in Colorado, and your business will likely be affected by the actions of local and state governments. Often enough, transient voter majorities seduced by the politics of the moment mandate those actions.
This year and for the foreseeable future, Colorado voters and elected officials will have to answer two questions: What are we going to fund, and how are we going to fund it? Happily, the state has to balance its yearly budget and even more happily voters have to approve any tax increases, so there’s little chance that Colorado will become Illinois in the mountains. That said, our usually sensible state and local electorate might well pass a “visionary” transportation scheme in the next few years.
In politician-speak, a visionary project is one that is fun, cool and easily marketed. Such projects claim to remedy daunting problems, improve communities, bring vast prosperity and create good jobs. Sure, they’re expensive — but think of the benefits!
Ladies and Gentlemen, we offer you: Front Range Rail!
We’ll build passenger rail from Pueblo to Denver (or, more ambitiously, from Trinidad to Cheyenne). No more nightmarish commutes on I-25! Getting to Denver will be quick, stress-free and efficient. Trains can carry many more people in a given time period than automobiles; they’re more energy efficient and less polluting. If you care about climate change and want a vibrant, sustainable economy, jump aboard!
What about construction and operational costs, state tax and budget considerations, and those pesky last/first mile problems? My mom took me on a railroad ride from the downtown D&RGW station in the late 1940s, arriving in about an hour at Denver’s Union Station. That was when US 85-87 linked Denver and Colorado Springs, 65 miles of two-lane blacktop called “the Ribbon of Death.” Both cities were compact and uncrowded with comprehensive bus service, a far cry from today’s sprawling polycentric metropolitan regions. Unless today’s trains were frequent and convenient, serving multiple stations along the line, I-25 congestion might not be much affected.
Proponents will argue that development will accelerate along the train route, creating tax revenue that will help pay for the project. It could also link to Denver’s light rail system, as well as to an eventual rail line along I-70.
Such visions are seductive. But if we think of Colorado as a business we might make other choices. Rather than encouraging more growth and congestion along the Front Range corridor, shouldn’t we invest more in other regions? Or if we’re going to put billions into passenger rail, what investments will we forego? Should we stay with the status quo and muddle along toward an uncertain and tumultuous future?
That wouldn’t be particularly businesslike, but maybe the Colorado business model doesn’t work anymore. Should we think like visionary developers and restructure our rickety old rattletrap of a state? How about replacing state government with half a dozen regional city-states, each responsive to its own voters and each with its own constitution? TABOR for Colorado Springs, Prop CC for Denver — no more fighting over tax limitation.
And just imagine our very own city-state tax code, one without state income tax, onerous auto registration fees and funding for multiple dysfunctional state bureaucracies! We’d save even more by merging city/county governments. Property values would soar, property taxes would dive and the theoretically unemployed Jared Polis would move here for tax reasons.
Sound like a feverish nightmare? Not at all — just meet me in the bar car of the 6:20 Express to Denver Friday evening, and I’ll explain…