The 20 percent cut to U.S. Forest Service funding in Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's budget plan would really cut into Colorado's economy, local Democrats and business owners said Thursday.
Democrats tried to turn the tables on the economic recovery conversation, framing a localized jobs discussion against a context of environmental stewardship during a press conference call arranged by President Barack Obama's campaign.
"Small businesses are really the backbone of our economy," Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said on the call. "Colorado needs a leader who will support our small businesses and help them grow. In my opinion, the best leader for that is President Barack Obama."
The call was part of a week-long push by the Obama campaign intended to portray a disconnect between "Mitt Romney's Colorado" and "the needs and priorities of the people of Colorado."
Weeks ahead of the election, Colorado remains decidedly purple. The president leads Romney by a single percentage point, according to a Denver Post poll released recently.
With the state still up for grabs, both camps are campaigning hard in the High Country. Summit County hosted one of only five Romney campaign buses in the country Sept. 16 for a brief Breck campaign stop, an effort matched by the Democrats this week with Thursday's call.
Local business owner Teague Holmes, of Breckenridge, and Andris Zobs, of Gunnison, joined Gibbs, a former state senator and active West Slope Democrat, on the call.
They said small businesses and the local economy rely on an open, safe and well-maintained natural environment, which would be at risk under the Romney budget plan.
Cuts under the Romney and Paul Ryan budget plan could hit Forest Service jobs, national parks' hours of operation and wildfire and bark beetle mitigation efforts, local Democrats said.
There are over 140,000 acres of beetle-kill impacted trees in Summit County, 80 percent of which sits on public lands, Gibbs said.
"The small business owners in this state believe that Colorado's national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife habitats, they're an essential part of the state's outdoor culture," said Holmes, who owns Teague Saves Homes Tree Service. "Acres of these public lands could be sold off and funding used to manage our national parks and other outdoor places could be slashed by up to 20 percent. (Romney's) budget proposals may run contrary to the values of many Coloradans."
Small business owners who participated in the call also turned the health care debate on its side, saying Obamacare provides the affordable insurance option their employees need.
They painted Romney as a corporate advocate, working for large companies rather than local start-ups.
Most business owners, Zobs said, are in the middle class.
"It seems like Romney's proposals for boosting business are really geared more toward large corporations and not businesses like mine," Zobs said. "I don't think he really understands people like us who are on the ground floor bootstrapping our way into new markets."
Summit County Republicans did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the call.