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Colorado House OKs incentives for NASCAR track
Colorado took a big step closer to being able to attract a NASCAR racetrack when the House approved a legislative proposal Wednesday that would allow the first-ever state-funded package of incentives geared toward attracting major tourism projects.

Senate Bill 173 won final approval on a 46-19 vote one day after extensive floor debate over whether it was an economic-development tool or corporate welfare. Twenty-three Republicans and 23 Democrats backed the measure, while 15 Democrats and four Republicans opposed it.

The proposal allows city and county governments to enter into agreements with the Colorado Economic Development Commission to set up special enterprise zones around potential locations for tourism-generating projects.

The governments would set a baseline amount of state sales tax collected currently within those zones and put any new tax revenue above that line to improving the infrastructure of the area or even toward helping to build the private tourism facilities.

A main goal of bill backers is bringing a NASCAR track to the Aurora area, but the enterprise zones also could be used to build everything from Winter Olympics facilities to museums that might draw visitors across state borders.

SB 173, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, blew through the upper chamber on a 30-3 vote in late February but stalled when a number of House Democrats questioned whether the bill represented a giveaway of tax dollars to private companies.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, led the floor fight against the measure Tuesday, saying that the tax revenue that could go to roads or schools around the new development will instead go to out-of-state companies who will siphon business away from local stores and restaurants.

But House sponsor Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, argued that a NASCAR track would create the equivalent annual economic impact of four Super Bowls with the number of out-of-state visitors it would bring for a week per race. That boost would spur more jobs and spending in the area and would create an infusion of tax revenues because of it, he said.

“I think that NASCAR is probably already aware that we passed this bill,” Rice said after the final vote Wednesday. “As the economy starts to recover ... hopefully they will move quickly.” Denver Business Journal

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