Fetcher says he’ll bring vision, leadership to senate
Q: As the region’s drought persists, Front Range owners of Western Slope water rights will put increasing pressure on the area’s streams and reservoirs. What’s your plan to protect local interests while still honoring the legal rights of those who own the water?
A: Having served on the Statewide Water Supply Initiative and on the board of the Colorado Water Trust, I understand these concerns and believe that we need to continue to be diligent in protecting our water as it is vital to the economic well being of our community. The Front Range owners of water have to incorporate conservation practices before additional diversions are allowed. It is unfair that our quality of life suffers because of wasteful water consumption by Front Range users. We should pursue additional claims that justify our use of water. I support recreational water rights and water conservation easements as tools that would be justifiable claims for water in our basins. I also support “basin of origin” protection that truly takes into account and mitigates the impact of water diversions to other basins, including environmental, recreational, agricultural and economic effects.Q: As the Western Slope grows, so does its need for water. How can we meet that need, and what solutions are available at a state level to get the job done?A: As a life-long rancher, water is crucial for my livelihood and I understand the constraints on our water supply from agriculture, tourism and the Front Range. Although construction of additional storage is part of the solution, I believe that we should take a cautious approach to new dam construction. I believe in reviewing the existing inventory of reservoirs and determining which could be reasonably expanded. This approach has less environmental impacts because of previous mitigation. We are presently experiencing a drought that is affecting how we should approach solutions. My belief is that we have to look at 50-year solutions. I support the prior-appropriation system of water distribution as this protects agriculture. I support the continued efforts to maintain in-stream flows through recreational water rights and water conservation easements. I would propose expansion of land-conservation-easement tax credits to water-conservation easements. I would propose that any new development has a provable long-lasting source of water without condemnation of agricultural water. We have to take steps now that ensure future generations with water of equal quantity and quality to what we now enjoy.
Q: The state’s budget continues to be squeezed by the conflicting requirements of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment. Several efforts to craft a compromise solution failed earlier this year. What’s your favored solution, and how can a compromise be hammered out?A: The present budget crisis is causing critical cuts in state services. Because of the ratchet effect of TABOR (the inability to recapture increasing revenues), Colorado residents will receive $300 million in refunds next year. Additionally, $260 million in new cuts will have to be made. I believe Colorado deserves better from their state legislators. I propose that a referendum be presented to the voters that would remove the restrictions on revenues collections. Amendment 23 has allowed Colorado to increase funding for K-12 education, but we still lag woefully behind most other states in spending per pupil. My position on Amendment 23 would be only to suspend the 1 percent above inflation spending requirement in years of declining revenues. The Gallagher Amendment causes the tax load to be carried mainly by businesses. A minimum assessment rate should be placed on residences so small businesses don’t pay most of local taxes. All of these changes require a vote of Colorado citizens, therefore referendums from the legislature have to be carefully crafted so that the proposals are fully understood by the voters.Q: With the state’s budget crunch has come postponement of several projects along Interstate 70. How crucial are any of these projects in the next 10 years? If these projects are necessary, is it possible to get any of them started given the current budget?A: Colorado has invested millions in the south metro area on improvements to I-25. It is about time that some of those resources be shifted to other parts of the state, particularly I-70. I believe we should address the problem under two scenarios.
The first would be to find short-term solutions that would include additional lanes. Creative financing was employed to fund T-REX. Let’s bring some of these solutions to help all of Colorado, particularly the I-70 corridor, as it is the lifeline of our economy. Secondly, I believe that long-term mass-transit solutions have to be employed. Research and innovation will continue to develop alternatives to the automobile. Any improvements now must be planned with mass transit in mind. Working groups of local government, impacted citizens, Colorado Department of Transportation, and other parties all need to be involved with these solutions. Q: Finally, and using as little campaign rhetoric as possible, why do you want this job?A: I consider serving as a state senator as a continuation of my commitment to public service. I believe firmly that my work experience as a small business owner and 35 years of local public service in issues of importance to Senate District 8 will allow me to immediately press for solutions in the state senate. My background in local government, education, protection of natural resources (including land and water), and commitment to health care solutions has given me a fresh perspective. I will bring vision and leadership that I believe is desperately needed due to our current state budget crisis. I also believe that the agricultural voice is missing in the state capitol – only four legislators are in production agriculture. I will protect and preserve our water, fight for local control of schools and advocate for quality education. Finally, I promise that I will work hard, be in touch, and be fair.Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Colorado
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