State Rep. Millie Hamner faces challenging session, election in 2014
The year 2014 is shaping up to be a busy and potentially hard one for Summit County local and state Rep. Millie Hamner (D —Dillon).
The former Summit School District superintendant will again have to defend her seat and will be trying to continue work she began this year to revise Colorado’s school finance policies.
Both could be uphill battles.
During the 2013 session Hamner helped pass the School Finance Reform Act in the House, which will put a ballot question before voters in November, asking them to approve a $1 billion income tax increase to help fund K-12 education across the state. The Colorado electorate hasn’t approved a tax increase measure since they passed the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) in 1992, requiring that any bump in taxes be approved by a vote of the people. In 2011, they resoundingly defeated a measure to temporarily increase sales and income taxes for education funding.
“It’s a tough road,” Hamner said. “I think this ballot question is placed to be more successful than that one was, but it’s definitely going to take a lot more work on the part of the campaign team.”
Whichever way the initiative goes, Hamner says her plate will be piled high with school finance issues next year.
“If the ballot measure passes, we have work to do to fine tune,” she said. “If it doesn’t pass we’re back to the drawing board with the state budget to continue to put more resources into the K-12 system without the benefit of having additional revenue to work with.”
When her legislative work wraps up in May, Hamner will be back on the campaign trail, and likely facing just as many challenges there.
There are those who say the Democrats went too far in 2013, using their majority power to push through a slew of controversial new laws, including in-state tuition for undocumented students, same-sex civil unions and a package of media-hyped and widely hated gun bills so contentious they precipitated a recall effort targeting two Democratic leaders in the Senate and talk of secession in the more conservative eastern parts of the state.
They’re laws that Hamner supported, if not overtly, then at least with her votes, and local voices in the opposing party say they could cost her in the next election.
“I think Millie’s a nice lady, but she voted pretty much the whole Democratic ticket straight down the line, which includes a lot of stuff that is contrary to the beliefs of most Coloradans,” Summit County Republican vice-chair Kim McGahey said. “I think that’s going to show up in the polls next fall.”
The local GOP does have a challenger in mind for House District 61, McGahey confirmed, but he declined to comment further.
Hamner herself concedes 2014 may be a tough win. She took a front seat in her second term, accepting a leadership role on the House Education Committee and heading up the effort to reform school finance policies, and she’s now representing a more geographically and economically diverse district.
“I think we always worry about how elections will turn out,” Hamner said. “My constituents have differing opinions around school funding, around gun safety and it’s really important for me to listen. Though there are diverse perspectives, at the end of the day, I have to make sure I do what is in the best interests of all these people in this district.”
In the 2014 legislative session, that will mean work on a number of issues including teacher and principal licensure policies.
Hamner said she won’t be putting forward any new gun-control laws, but expects adjustments and amendments to the existing statutes to be on the table when she returns to the Capitol in January.
The campaign for the school funding tax question, which will be on this year’s ballot, will kick off in earnest in the near future, Hamner said.
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