LUCIA GUZMAN | Bridge the partisan divide to pursue our highest priorities
Author: Lucia Guzman - July 31, 2018 - Updated: August 10, 2018
COMMENTARY: This is part of our series of contributed essays, “Imagine a Great Colorado.” See below for more.
Imagining and believing in a great Colorado does not seem like an easy task, especially after serving eight-plus years in the legislature and knowing, firsthand, what it takes to get something done! As I prepare to leave the Senate, however, I am optimistic about Colorado because the work ahead can be accomplished — through bipartisan, open-minded approaches. Colorado’s future will and must depend on bipartisanship. We have much more in common than that which divides us.
A great Colorado must protect, conserve and preserve its water, savor its public lands, honor its rural areas and revamp TABOR.
This summer I traveled from Denver to the Yampa Valley, the San Luis Valley and the North Fork Valley and found they all have a common concern: water. The Colorado River basins must be supported, and the Colorado Water Plan must continue to be enhanced and strongly supported budgetarily to hold true not only to our rivers but to Colorado’s future.
A third-generation rancher-farmer told me he believed his operation would not survive in the years ahead because of the lack of water and the cost of irrigating his small farm. I spoke with a farm operation outside of Alamosa that grows various grains to supply distillers and brewers. They worry that their supply of water will be affected by development needs in metro areas.
It is true that many rural Coloradans feel strained and impacted by the needs of the urban areas. Water is not the only concern distinguishing rural and urban areas, however. Colorado is great because of both rural and urban communities, but one — rural — has far less recognition and support. Rural Colorado has a small tax base, fewer teachers with adequate salaries, inadequate broadband services, roads and transportation issues, and communities losing jobs and longtime businesses.
Colorado’s public lands must be left to stand as they always have: a gift to the people. Drill, but not on public lands. Colorado cannot even be imagined as a Great Colorado if the lands that have inspired our interest in the outdoors, the signing of the Wilderness Act, and the establishment of so many national parks and monuments are sold away or damaged to a place where the land cannot be what it was. The authentic experience with nature provided to us all through these lands provides the “soul” of who we are as Coloradans.
Our state’s U.S. Congress and U.S, Senate members must join in bipartisan friendship to produce programs in partnership with the state of Colorado, to enhance the care of our public lands. Thousands of persons are hiking the trails, fishing our streams and hunting. But there must be additional help to preserve these areas. Our national leaders could join together to build a state-federal work program, through which people can receive pay for participating in preserving the trails and sustaining operations.
Last but not least, Colorado can be greater with better income. In other words, Colorado must be able to make and keep more revenue. The people must remove most of TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Keep the part which requires the people to vote whether or not they support a proposed tax increase — but take away the rest.