I am running for the House again because I am a proven leader on the issues that are important to this district.
I served in the Colorado State House for six years, from 2005-2010. During my tenure I chaired the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, served as Speaker Pro-tem, and ran key water and oil and gas legislation and focused on the budget process. My professional experience as manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District and my work in the nonprofit sector is also good background for serving this district.
I think that the forest health issue is the most critical problem this county faces. I would pursue the following course of action if elected: Amend the legislation that Rep. Hamner sponsored last year re-authorizing funding from the Forest Program Fund. The bill authorized funding at a level up to $2.5 million annually for another five years, but unfortunately the actual appropriation is less than that amount. I believe we need to try and secure a specific funding level as well as increase it. For the 2012/2013 cycle the funding commitment from the state totals $811,340 for bark beetle and forest health purposes, and for the 2013/2014 fiscal year the program funding is projected to be $1,953,053. This financial commitment is clearly not enough to address the needs in Summit County, let alone the entire state. But in order to stabilize and increase the state's commitment, it will be necessary to reduce expenditures for other programs. Specifically, forest health dollars are competing against the Low Income Energy Assistance program, and several water programs. I believe that forest health program grants need to be funded at a higher level, and in order to do that I would seek to negotiate funding cuts in the competing programs.I would also look at the implementation guidelines on the state funding to ensure that the available dollars are being used in the most beneficial way. I believe we need to invest in market opportunities and increase the rates of material removal. I have also been told that the grant process itself is overly time consuming, so I would evaluate whether or not that process can be streamlined.
As an independent I am in a great position to work with both sides, and as a centrist I am able to find common ground. It all comes down to respect and a willingness to actually address the concerns of your colleagues. That is how I operated when I served previously, and I would continue that practice.
I would run a joint resolution seeking to refer a question to the voters to amend the Colorado Constitution. My goal would be to amend the language that requires disproportional increases in commercial property taxes over time as compared to residential property tax rates (aka the Gallagher Amendment). I believe we should seek to cap the commercial property tax burden at current rates. This would at least stabilize one of the input costs that businesses face and provide certainty in terms of future commercial investment. It would be nice to tackle all of the conflicting requirements set forth in the Constitution at once, but that is a very tall order. At a minimum we could at least address this one component. Every year that goes by is a lost opportunity and if we don't try, nothing is likely to get done. It would also benefit business if we could increase the financial assistance from the state in order to more aggressively pursue forest restoration projects, keep the pressure on CDOT to continue to view the I-70 capacity problem as one of their top priorities, and pursue measures that would ultimately increase broadband capacity.