OPINION: Why Denver Metro Chamber Opposes Amendment 69, ColoradoCare

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce opposes Amendment 69 — ColoradoCare — and has a presence on the high-profile opposition website, Coloradans for Coloradans. In fact, Denver Metro Chamber CEO Kelly Brough co-chairs this ‘No on 69’ website, along with Former Governor Bill Ritter (D), and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton (R).

I was fortunate to be granted a phone interview with CEO Kelly Brough. Laura Giocomo, V.P. of Communications and Marketing, sat in. Ms. Brough quickly got down to the business of explaining why the Chamber opposes Amendment 69.

“Let me tell you a little bit about who we are, because that might help give you context as we have this discussion. We have 59 board members. They represent every industry in Colorado, geographically dispersed, from the smallest of businesses. We have sole proprietors on our board. In fact 90% of our businesses are have less than 50 employees. We have 3,000 members with about 300,000 employees that work for those members. When our board takes a position we are really taking a position to represent a very broad range of interests. A lot of our policy – ColoradoCare would be an example – certainly has state-wide implications, so we have relationships with people throughout the state of Colorado.

“What is important is, why did our board members – 59 of them – unanimously vote to oppose this? The number one thing we do at the Chamber of Commerce is focus on putting Coloradans to work in really good jobs. We devote ourselves to this, and so our lens looks at every issue from that point of view. Is ColoradoCare going to help put more Coloradans to work, and have the kind of quality of life and benefits and pay for that make for a great quality of life?

“Our first concern was the 10% payroll tax. (Employer pays 6.67% and employee pays 3.33%). It would make Colorado the highest tax bracket state in the country. Whether you’re an existing business, or a business that’s trying to grow, or a business that is looking to relocate here, that 10% tax is going to be a strike against us – to be the highest income tax in the country. That concerned our board.

“Second issue, I mentioned that 90% of our companies have less than 50 employees. They’re really small businesses. So every decision we make is with that in mind. Most of those companies, and I’m going to guess 95%, are structured either as a sole proprietor, LLC, or an S-Corp. Why should we care about that? Because, those structures require that all income to your company be treated as personal income, and those small businesses would pay the full 10% payroll tax. That’s devastating for small businesses.

“Third issue, we looked at Vermont, another state whose governor actually ran on being the first state to have a single payer system. They pulled the plug even though their own governor was the advocate for this. The reason was that they had the same concerns we had that it would be most devastating to the small businesses and working class families. They had gotten much further down the road with many more answers to questions than ColoradoCare is able to give today.

“Also, ColoradoCare is an amendment to the state constitution. If it doesn’t work, it’s really hard to unwind it – unlike Vermont, who could stop legislation and pull it back before significant damage was done.

“The Chamber has members among our 3,000 members, and among our 59 board members, who would support single payer for the country. But they thought that ColoradoCare would not accomplish what single payer is set up to do because essentially it’s not a single payer system. All systems would stay in effect in Colorado, so there’s no efficiency and no savings because of administrative costs. It would be adding one more payer to Colorado’s system.

“Another concern is the impact on seniors, and those who would pay into the single payer system – pensions would pay a full 10% – the military would still be in Tricare, and seniors would be in Medicare, but all would be paying 10% of their pension (exempting the first $24,000) into the ColoradoCare system, so the single payer notion would have negative consequences for two very large populations in Colorado.

“Regarding the idea that a single payer system will impact the cost of Colorado health care and pharmaceuticals: Colorado, going single payer, would not have any impact on the country’s cost for health care, or pharmaceuticals.

“Our board, when we looked at the reality of all of these issues, and the specifics of the proposal, came out unanimously in opposition of ColoradoCare.”

Our conversation ended with Ms. Brough recommending the non-partisan Colorado Health Institute – an organization that did their own study on ColoradoCare – as a resource.

While doing research, I happened upon a thoughtful article, “Denver Metro Chamber Principles on Health Reform.”

Denver Metro is fortunate to have their Chamber board and CEO advocate for policy that is best for business.

Unfortunately, ColoradoCare doesn’t pass muster.

Cynda Green

Cynda Green is an investigative reporter, writer, and photographer based out of Salida, Colorado. She may be contacted at cyndagreen@gmail.com.

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