Opinion

HUDSON | Is independent thought making a comeback at the legislature?

Author: Miller Hudson - May 30, 2018 - Updated: May 29, 2018

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Miller Hudson

There were several flashes of bipartisan compromise at the close of the legislative session that provide a glimmer of hope for the emergence of a Colorado First political majority. It’s not a sure thing by a long shot, but it feels like our major political parties are starting to respond to pressure from voters who are enlisting in the “Lets get something done, even if we have to pay for it…” caucus. The legislature’s eleventh-hour approval last year for a reclassification of the hospital provider fee, exempting these revenues from TABOR spending restrictions, proved a harbinger for what transpired this year. During the closing hours of the 2018 session transportation funding, phase 2 of a PERA bailout, redistricting reform and more were pushed across the finish line.

To no surprise, there remain fulminating minorities on both sides of the aisle bleating about ideological betrayal. Most of this whining is linked to national agendas at a time when Congress has proven incapable of accomplishing much of anything. Colorado voters who still believe Washington remains capable of providing leadership, assistance or solutions for our challenges are not paying attention. The time has arrived when Coloradans best acknowledge we have to build our own roads, capture and store our own water, save our rural hospitals and shoulder the costs for most of this. These are the necessities that demand shared sacrifice if we are to preserve the quality of life that attracts so many to Colorado.

A hundred years ago, five Colorado counties authorized the Moffat Tunnel Commission in order to construct what was then the longest railroad tunnel in the world, connecting the Western Slope with the Front Range and throwing in the trial bore as a water delivery straw for the Denver Water Board. It was an exercise in what constitutes “anticipatory democracy.” The voters who approved a mill levy on their homes and properties did not need these tunnels; but they approved them to foster growth and development along the Front Range.

Today we are doing little to anticipate the millions of residents who will move to Colorado between now and 2050. If we fail to build the reservoirs, construct the roads and transit, add the schools and university classrooms they properly expect, we will all suffer the negative impacts on our environment and prosperity. Ironically, it has been rural Republicans who appear the most alert to this danger.  While it can be argued they may remain insulated from the worst of the congestion and pollution newcomers will generate, the truth is that as the Front Range urban corridor proceeds to metastasize, it will attempt to monopolize state resources — frequently to the detriment of Colorado’s agricultural and mountain communities.

This is not a matter of malice. The Front Range simply has the political muscle and the votes to insist on services. They, quite reasonably, will try to fund their needs first. That’s why we are hearing so much about the gridlock along I-25 north and south of Denver. Outstate Colorado shouldn’t tolerate a repetition of the T-REX bonding that promised 50 outstate highway improvements in exchange for the widening of I-25 through Denver. Many of the promised rural road projects are still waiting on funding.

There are deals to be struck at the Capitol assuring all parts of the state a seat at the table when revenues are distributed. We now know this is possible, but don’t be surprised if you hear little about these opportunities during the campaigns ahead of us. Rabid partisans rarely relinquish their favorite arguments unless slapped upside the head by voters. Their eyes are usually locked on the rear view mirror.

That’s why it might help if a few independent candidates supported by Unite Colorado were to capture seats in November. There’s nothing that would better focus the attention of knee-jerk candidates on both the right and left than angry constituents

Miller Hudson

Miller Hudson

Miller Hudson is a public affairs consultant and a former state legislator. He can be reached at mnhwriter@msn.com.