Bennet talks jobs, education in Summit County | SummitDaily.com

Bennet talks jobs, education in Summit County

JULIE SUTOR
summit daily news

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

FRISCO – Not surprisingly, health care, the economy and forest health topped the list of issues local voters wanted to discuss Thursday with Sen. Michael Bennet during the Democrat’s campaign stop in Frisco.

On those topics and others, Bennet said the country’s leaders will have to decide whether they want to find real solutions or allow partisan politics to thwart progress.

“I think there’s too much partisanship back there,” Bennet said of the nation’s capital. “I think once you put away the political stuff, people are much more interested in solving problems. And that’s what I hope to be able to do.”

Two attendees at the town hall meeting asked what Bennet would do to improve health care and ensure that Medicare payments will cover doctors’ costs.

“We have so much more we need to do to get control of cost in our health care system,” Bennet said.

Cost transparency and controlling costs in medical care are essential to reform, according to Bennet. Without transparency, patients can’t make comparisons and find the most cost-effective care. During the national debate over health-care reform, the senator offered amendments aimed at tackling issues of cost and transparency.

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On forest health, Bennet advocated for continued attention to the pine-beetle epidemic and touted his accomplishments thus far, including working with Sen. Mark Udall to bring $30 million in funding to Colorado for beetle-related forest projects.

“There are two sides to this: One is making sure we are doing the mitigation that needs to be done to address fire danger. The other is figuring out what we can do with the resources,” Bennet said of the dead lodgepoles covering local hillsides.

Jobs, the economy and the federal debt were also hot topics during the meeting. Bennet said federal spending during the last 10 years has put the federal government in “horrible shape” fiscally, and he called for greater government efficiency and closer attention to defining priorities. Investment in renewable energy should be one of those priorities, he said, arguing it will reduce dependence on foreign energy, create jobs and protect the environment. Without such investment, he said, countries like China have the potential to outpace the U.S.

“We should be saying to ourselves that we’re going to adopt a set of policies that’s going to allow us to outcompete the rest of the world,” Bennet said.

In the short term, Bennet said the federal government needs to do a better job supporting small businesses and making credit available to them.

“I hope we’ll be able to establish a fund that would lend money to community banks so they could turn around and lend to small businesses. This is a Main Street discussion. Our Main Street businesses and Main Street banks have been lost in the discussions in Washington,” Bennet said.

SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.