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In ‘State of the Fifth’ address, Lamborn focuses on defense

Author: Rachel Riley, The Gazette - February 21, 2018 - Updated: February 21, 2018

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Doug LambornU.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn. (Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette)

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn on Tuesday hailed a $700 million defense budget, passed in December, as one of the biggest recent legislative victories for the Pikes Peak Region.

The National Defense Authorization Act gives military personnel a 2.4 percent pay raise – the largest in eight years – and $90.5 million for local military construction, the Colorado Springs Republican said at his annual State of the 5th Congressional District luncheon.

The new policy also gives a $90 million boost to the National Space Defense Center, which has 230 people working at Schriever Air Force Base to fend off threats to U.S. military and spy satellites.

“And those are just the highlights of the (new law),” Lamborn told about 75 people at the luncheon, held annually by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. “There are many more wins for the region and the country.”

In his final “State of the Fifth” before he runs for re-election in November, Lamborn rehashed his legislative strides of the past year.

Lamborn faces at least three challengers in the Republican primary, including El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, state Sen. Owen Hill and former Texas state judge Bill Rhea.

Lamborn gave high praise to the changes seen under President Donald Trump’s administration, from new fiscal policies to what he called a renewed respect for religious freedom. He cited the tax overhaul, signed into law by Trump in December, which slashed the corporate rate and resulted in tax cuts for many Americans.

“By now you may have noticed less taxes coming out of your monthly paycheck and more money in your pocket. When you file taxes next year, it could be as simple as dropping a postcard in the mail,” Lamborn said. “These benefits are for everybody – not just the rich, as some would say.”

Among the crowd were business leaders and elected officials, including Colorado Springs City Councilman Merv Bennett and all five county commissioners.

“I was pleased with the congressman’s comments today. There was a lot of content and proposals and recently passed laws that I think are very helpful for the country,” county commissioner Stan VanderWerf said afterward. “Reducing taxes nationwide is going to be an outstanding economic stimulus. I think it’s going to bring a lot of foreign investment back to the United States.”

In a question-and-answer session after his address, Lamborn said he hopes a federal infrastructure package in the works will support the widening of Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock.

State and local officials have developed a plan to pay for the $350 million project, which would widen the roughly 18-mile stretch of highway known as “The Gap” from two to three lanes in each direction. But the proposal isn’t final, and officials won’t hear back till spring on a $65 million federal grant that would foot part of the bill.

Lamborn said he’s unsure if the new infrastructure policies would provide funds for the project, but the legislation could help streamline the environmental review process for that widening and other large-scale transportation projects.

“We don’t know yet the final look of the package, but I’m going to be looking for opportunities to make the Gap part of that, if it’s possible,” he said.

Lamborn remained silent on a renewed debate over gun control in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.

In an interview before the address, he said preventive measures – whether arming teachers or making sure school entrances are well-guarded – should be explored in Colorado.

“Unfortunately, we do see this very troubling pattern,” he said. “I would like to at least debate at the state level the possibility of teachers being armed, if they are trained properly to do so. Whether they have a firearm in their car that’s locked up or inside the building – those are the kinds of details that need to be discussed very thoroughly.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Rachel Riley, The Gazette

Rachel Riley, The Gazette