State senate hopefuls make their cases in Eagle | VailDaily.com
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State senate hopefuls make their cases in Eagle

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE – Experience faced off against a call for new blood Wednesday in the race to represent Eagle County in the state Senate.

With partisan control of the Colorado Senate on the line this election season, incumbent Republican Jack Taylor and Democratic challenger Jay Fetcher told a small crowd in Eagle about their qualifications and vision for the future. The candidates are competing to represent state Senate District 8, which covers most of northwest Colorado including much of Eagle County.

Taylor stressed his experience representing Eagle County: eight years in the Colorado House of Representatives and the last four in the state Senate.

Fetcher focused on his experience in local government, particularly on the Steamboat Springs school board, as well as his role in founding the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.

The two offered differing views of the future of the district, and the state, on topics including:

Economic development and tourism

Taylor said protecting water supplies is one of the most crucial elements of keeping the district’s economy strong. The other element of protecting and expanding the economy of the district is tourism promotion.

Taylor’s been involved in protecting local water interests in the Legislature, and supports new reservoirs, such as the one proposed for the Wolcott area, he said. The key to new reservoirs, though, is building them big enough to help the “basin of origin” users to maintain streamflows and ensure supplies, he said.

Using the example of the proposed Wolcott reservoir, Taylor said it’s currently proposed to be about 50,000 acre feet, with only about 5,000 acre feet of that storage dedicated to local use.

“Why not build it at 75,000 acre feet so local users can take advantage?” Taylor said.

Taylor also told the audience he has served on the state’s tourism board for his entire tenure in the Legislature and continues to look for ways to provide money for tourism promotion since Colorado voters rejected a renewal of the state’s tourism-promotion sales tax in the early 1990s.

Fetcher offered a different idea for stream protection and tourism promotion.

He proposed expanding the state’s “conservation easement” program to water rights as well. For example, he said, if a ranch was sold for development, water rights previously used for agriculture could be preserved and used to ensure adequate stream flows.

Fetcher also proposed expanding the reach of tourism in the district.

“Meeker is struggling,” he said. “How to we get tourists over there?”

State budget

Taylor said most new initiatives at the state level are on hold because of the state’s money problems. Much of the shortage stems from the conflicting requirements of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR amendment – which holds down, and sometimes reduces, state revenue – and Amendment 23, which requires annual spending increases for elementary and high school education, he said.

“We’ve cut $1 billion from the state budget the last two years,” Taylor said. “There’s not a lot left to cut.”

Taylor worked through the last legislative session and into the summer to send a plan to voters that would have relaxed both amendments’ requirements, but partisan pressure on both sides of the aisle eventually derailed those efforts, he said.

Taylor favors sending voters – who would have to approve any changes to the two constitutional amendments – a plan to put both amendments on “hold” for at least a year, he said. Taylor’s proposal would also include “trigger points.” For instance, if the state’s budget surplus dropped below a certain level, the two amendments would be put on hold until the surplus built back up, he said .

Fetcher agreed that TABOR needs to be fixed, but mentioned Amendment 23 only at the end of the second question he answered on the state budget.

“We need to fully fund Amendment 23,” he said. “I support it 100 percent.”

Transportation

While the state budget has delayed most improvements to Interstate 70, Taylor and Fetcher’ had similar views on the future of mountain travel.

Both said, in the short term, another couple of lanes are probably necessary to keep traffic moving. In the long term, though, both favored mass transit of some kind.

“My dream is some sort of transit from Denver International Airport all the way to Grand Junction,” Taylor said.

Qualifications

Taylor cited his experience over 12 years in state government. With about one-third of the legislature turning over every two years due to term limits, “We need to keep experience when we can,” he said.

It takes between two and four years to really understand the process in Denver, Taylor said. “I’m still learning,” he said.

Fetcher countered Taylor’s Denver experience with what he called his local knowledge.

“Local experience is very important,” he said. “I’ve got 35 years of experience at the local level… I can hit the ground running.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado


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