University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, the only Republican elected to a statewide office in Colorado and a rumored 2022 governor candidate, has been metaphorically shouting that figure from the rooftops recently.
In recent newspaper columns, Ganahl has repeatedly cited a report from the Common Sense Institute (CSI), a business-oriented research organization in Denver, that tallied the cost of new taxes and fees resulting from state policy changes over the last few years on individuals and businesses.
The report, titled “Colorado’s Competitiveness: The Challenge of Economic Recovery Under More than $1.8 Billion in New Regulations, Taxes and Fees,” adds up fiscal notes for a wide variety of ballot measures and laws passed since 2018, including measures related to affordable housing, health care, and, notably, the paid family and medical leave program that Colorado voters approved in 2020.
In a column penned for the Colorado Springs Gazette earlier this month titled “Colorado Drops Out of the Jobs Race,” Ganahl writes that “every onerous regulation comes with a cost — lost jobs, more red tape and money taken from the family budget. The costs are taking a toll. In fact, earlier this year, Common Sense Institute estimated the cumulative cost of new taxes and fees will reach a whopping $1.8 billion in the next three to five years.”
She also underscores the $1.8 billion number in another Gazette column from June, this time erroneously stating that the costs tallied in CSI’s report come from “this last legislative session alone,” when, in fact, it includes both laws and voter-approved ballot measures over the past few years.
“The Common Sense Institute issued a study calculating the cost of proposed regulations, taxes and fees from this last legislative session alone,” she writes. “Hold on to your hat — it’s a whopping $1.8 billion. That’s billion with a B. That’s bad news for our economy, for businesses and for families.”
Here’s what she isn’t saying: CSI attributes more than two-thirds of that $1.8 billion to Proposition 118, which created a state-run insurance program that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for personal medical reasons or care for a new child or family member. The program, which was overwhelmingly approved by Colorado voters (58%-42%) last year, is funded by a payroll tax split evenly between employers and employees and amounts to 0.9 percent of an employee’s total wages.
Joshua Mantell, policy analyst for the Bell Policy Center, a progressive advocacy organization, told the Colorado Times Recorder that CSI’s report ignores the complexities of recently adopted policies and who benefits from them in favor of “using a big scary number to get into news stories.”
“Adding all of this stuff up without any actual kind of analysis underneath it doesn’t really tell anybody anything. You’re just adding up unlike numbers,” he said. “What we should really be looking at is who pays, who benefits, and what’s the distribution of all these costs.”
“Paid family leave is an incredibly important part of a robust and dynamic economy,” Mantell added, emphasizing its importance in light of the fact that women have been hit hardest by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
In fact, CSI itself has raised alarm about the pandemic’s impact on working women, and particularly mothers, pointing out in a February report that women accounted for over 54 percent of job losses nationwide despite only making up 47 percent of the labor market.
The combination of job losses and a huge increase in caregiving responsibilities (women already did twice as much unpaid care as men before the pandemic) has made it all the more difficult to be a working mother in the U.S., where family-centric workplace policies and affordable childcare options are lacking. Economists have warned that this disparity could exacerbate gender inequality for years to come, in addition to hindering our general economic recovery from the pandemic.
Beyond the obvious importance of allowing workers to care for their health during a pandemic, there’s strong evidence showing that paid family leave policies enable mothers to stay in the workforce.
Ganahl’s rumored run for office comes as the Colorado Republican Party reckons with historic election losses over the past few years that have left nearly every statewide office in the hands of Democrats and attempts to rebrand itself in order to win back voters. Part of that rebranding strategy apparently includes putting forth new faces in party leadership positions–namely, the faces of women like recently-elected Colorado GOP leader Kristi Burton Brown, who often touts the party’s newly minted all-female leadership and distances herself from her political roots as an anti-abortion activist.
It is perhaps surprising, then, that Ganahl, who’s seen as one of the party’s only hopes to win a statewide seat in 2022, would effectively bash a policy that’s clearly popular with the voters that she seeks to win over, particularly one that helps women achieve success in their careers, a cause on which she bases much of her identity.
Ganahl did not return an email seeking to know if she was aware that most of the $1.8 billion figure she cites is attributable to the voter-approved paid family leave program and whether she views the policy as an “onerous regulation,” as stated in her column.
Other than her current position as a CU Regent, Ganahl is best known as a leading entrepreneur in the state: she started the highly successful pet care company Camp Bow Wow. More recently she launched a “lifestyle brand” called SheFactor that aims to “help young women create a life they love,” while also “talking about free markets, free speech, individual rights, personal responsibility…we’re just not doing it as an overt political organization,” Ganahl revealed to Republicans at a 2019 luncheon.
I signed up for SheFactor’s email newsletter and my inbox was inundated with girl-power:
“We cant wait to see you rock this world, girl.” “We’re not your average cheerleading squad… this is your squad for life, girl.” “Succes IS the movement. The movement is made up of tools and resources that will meet you where you are in life, where you define the rules and create your own destiny.”
Paid leave not included.