Local legislators draw crowd in Frisco, discuss state | SummitDaily.com

Local legislators draw crowd in Frisco, discuss state

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Summit County, CO Colorado

FRISCO ” State Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Christine Scanlan drew a standing-room-only crowd Saturday morning at Abbey’s Coffee in Frisco, where they discussed such pressing issues as wildfires, transportation and 3.2 beer.

The two Democrats from Summit County, standing at the counter amid about 60 people, opened the conversation explaining Colorado’s grim economic outlook.

“It is a tough climate, and for some families it’s pretty catastrophic right now,” Scanlan said.

The state’s budget is expected to be short more than $600 million this year and perhaps more than $1 billion next year. She said education, higher education and transportation are expected to take the hardest hits.

Gibbs said the budget cuts will be tough considering the variety of priorities each of the state’s districts bring to the table. And unlike the federal government, “we have to balance what we have,” he said.

“It’s not going to be fun,” Gibbs said. “But we have to make it work in the long run.”

Scanlan, who serves on the Colorado Tourism Board, said she’s working to ensure funding for tourism ” which has been shown to return $6 for every $1 spent ” isn’t cut too severely.

She also said that like state needs to start offering incentives for businesses to relocate ” which Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico and other nearby states use to bring in more revenue. She said Colorado could be in “real trouble” in coming years if it doesn’t start attracting more “high-paying business jobs.”

Regarding transportation, Gibbs ” who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee ” said the $250 million FASTER bill the Senate approved last week is a “good first step” toward an estimated $1.5 billion needed for deteriorating roads and bridges.

A number of people asked why the bill, which would increase vehicle-registration fees an average of $32, wouldn’t instead increase the state’s tax on gasoline. Gibbs explained that increasing the state gas tax (presently 22 cents) would require taxpayer approval through an election.

A bill that would allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer ” as opposed to beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by volume ” was on the minds of a number of small business owners at Saturday’s meeting. Scanlan, who opposes the bill, said she’s received hundreds of e-mails regarding its effect on businesses.

“I always say in Summit County the tourists don’t know it’s 3.2 beer,” she said.

Scanlan said she’s heard of grocery stores affected by recent legislation allowing liquor stores to be open on Sunday.

However, Colorado’s microbreweries and small businesses are sure to be affected by the bill, allowing grocery stores and convenience stores ” which stick to mainstream brands ” to sell full-strength beer. Scanlan recently spoke against even considering such legislation in the present economy.

The legislators also spoke about seven proposed bills this session regarding wildfire mitigation. Gibbs discussed his support for a move to provide revolving loans for fire-mitigation-friendly start-up businesses “to get chainsaws on the ground, if you will.”

Scanlan said she continues to push for U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding, especially considering that three of four major power lines cross through pine-beetle-infested forest.

“There is an urgency around this that we have to act on,” she said.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.

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