Colorado legislators face questions about rising anti-growth sentiment

Party heads shared ideas to deal with anti-growth concerns Thursday during the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s fifth annual Business Legislative Preview.

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Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran (left) and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman speak at the 5th Annual Business Legislative Preview, Jan. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  copolitics; legislature; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;

Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran (left) and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman speak at the 5th Annual Business Legislative Preview, Jan. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Colorado officials work hard to attract talented workers, new companies and millennials to the state, but not everyone is happy about those efforts.

State legislators will head back to the capitol this month with what seems to be a backdrop of growing discontent about growth from some of their constituents. Party heads shared ideas to deal with anti-growth concerns Thursday during the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s fifth annual Business Legislative Preview.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican, called all the new residents and businesses flocking to the Front Range “a wonderful problem to have.”

“If you go out to somewhere outside the metro area or if you go out to rural Colorado, we would die to have to have some of those kinds of problems, to have that kind of growth, to have so much growth you don’t know what to do with it,” Grantham said.

“We need to figure out what we can do to solve congestion, not stop people from coming,” he said, “because if we’re not growing, we’re dying.”

Stopping new residents from moving to Colorado during the upcoming session was not listed as a top legislative priority by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the president and CEO of the business advocacy organization, Kelly Brough, called on legislators to come up with solutions fund transportation infrastructure, fix a looming funding gap for Public Employees’ Retirement Association, aka PERA, address rising healthcare costs and plan longterm for the state’s water needs.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a Castle Rock Republican, agreed that state legislators need to “get something done on roads.” That something apparently was not Gov. John Hickenlooper’s unsuccessful 2017 push to come up with a new funding source for transportation.

In addition to transportation, Neville said lawmaker should look at the rising costs in Colorado coming from burdens and regulations being placed on businesses.

Senate President Kevin Grantham (right) and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville speak at the 5th Annual Business Legislative Preview, Jan. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  copolitics; legislature; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;

Senate President Kevin Grantham (right) and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville speak at the fifth Annual Business Legislative Preview, Jan. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Amazon is one business generating a lot discussion in the metro area.

The idea of the Amazon.com Inc. building its second North American headquarters in Colorado and adding tens of thousands of new residents scares people, said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat.

“The fear comes from the reality right now that we’re not prepared today,” Guzman said. “I mean we’re not prepared at this moment to bring in that many more people.”

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, another Denver Democrat, said that growth has brought benefits like a low unemployment rate. But it’s also brought concerns about being pushed out of the neighborhoods where they were reared.

“I don’t blame people from moving here from California and across the country because Colorado has an amazing quality of life,” Duran said, “but we also have to have some really tough conversations about what we want our state to look like for generations to come.”

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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