Hearing offers Vail rep wish list for stimulus money | VailDaily.com

Hearing offers Vail rep wish list for stimulus money

John C. Ensslin
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

A community hearing Sunday, attended by Vail’s congressman, on the proposed federal economic stimulus package drew a shopping list of requests ranging from smart energy grids and wildfire fighting help to Medicaid funds and a single payer health system.

On a day when many people were attending Super Bowl parties, more than 100 people filed into Mathematics Hall on the University of Colorado campus to state what they think should be included in the $819 billion economic recovery package pending before the U.S. Senate.

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, whose district includes Vail and Eagle County, and an aide to U.S. Sen. Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs, both Democrats, attended the first hour of the hearing and heard from 12 people representing various government and nonprofit groups.

They heard from people such as Pete Leibig, president and CEO of Clinica Family Health Services, which runs the Boulder People’s Clinic. Leibig said a recent proposal to trim the state Medicaid budget could lop off $1 million in his organization’s budget at a time when demand has increased 20 percent or more.

“So we’re finding ourselves reducing capacity just as the need for services goes up,” he said.

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Boulder City Council member Lisa Morzel presented several “ready-to-go projects” that otherwise would be difficult to fund at a time when the city’s projected $1.8 million in sales tax and other revenues has fallen short.

She noted, however, that the city and Xcel Energy have partnered on a $100 million project that will use new technologies to create a smart energy grid that would be less prone to outages. She noted that the stimulus package calls for $11 billion in funding for such projects and said she hopes some of that money finds its way to Boulder.

Polis said he found the suggestions helpful. He cautioned, however, that the package does not include measures that some of the audience applauded, such as a single-payer system for a national health care program. Polis said he favors such a system but does not believe there are enough votes in Congress now to win approval.

He said the package includes funds that will help Colorado backfill funding for some of the human service programs the state has been forced to cut.

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