State legislature candidates shared views on a variety of issues during a forum hosted by the Westminster Chamber of Commerce at Covernent Village Oct. 6. Grady Nouis, R-Westminster, is challenging …
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State legislature candidates shared views on a variety of issues during a forum hosted by the Westminster Chamber of Commerce at Covernent Village Oct. 6.
Grady Nouis, R-Westminster, is challenging incumbent Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, for House District 29, which includes northeast Arvada and western Westminster.
Bruce Baker, R-Westminster, and Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, are vying for a seat in House District 35 to be vacated Faith Winter, who is running for a state senate seat instead. The district is a sliver of Westminster mostly east of Sheridan and west of I-25 from 68th Avenue to 156th Avenue. Baker and Bird have both served on the Westminster City Council.
Incumbent Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, is defending her seat in Senate District 24 - which includes portions of Westminster, Thornton and Northglenn - from challenger Winter, D-Westminster.
Candidates were asked their opinion of the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which limits the revenue the state can keep and spend as well as requires any tax increase to be approved by voters — rather than leaving it to legislators, according to leg.colorado.gov.
Candidates stayed on their sides of the political fence with Republicans favoring the 1992 measures and Democrats pointing out flaws.
“It was put in place by you, the voters, all of us as voters many years ago and it’s a protection that helps us so that we don’t go into a state where we are overdrawn with our finances,” Martinez Humenlik said. “So there are limits to some things and some people would say that that is a hindrance but it has also helped Colorado stay the solvent state that it’s been going through the recessionary time period we just came through. So, while it has some issues with it for some people, it’s also been good for our state.”
However, Winter said she sees local jurisdictions “de-brucing” — making exceptions to TABOR for increased spending.
“Which basically says our economy is doing well, we should all do well and I think that’s a step the state of Colorado could take that would both benefit voters, benefit the state, but giving you all, the voters, the right to vote on tax increases,” Winter said.
Bird also said she sees merits and flaws in TABOR.
“I respect people’s right to vote on their taxes, there are challenges with TABOR, though as so far as when we have an economic downturn, when the economy starts to improve, we’re not able to replenish budgets to pre-recessionary levels because of restrictions put into TABOR,” Bird said. “So I would be interested in exploring options to fix that, retaining your right to vote on tax increases but allowing our economy to repair important budgets for our government as our economy improves.”
Her opponent, however, disagreed.
“I am in support of the TABOR 100 percent. TABOR is a valuable protection that the people of Colorado have,” Baker said.
He said without TABOR, Colorado would “be in terrible shape.”
Nouis said TABOR, has been a good thing for Colorado. He said the state’s nearly $30 billion budget is large enough.
“If TABOR is lifted, tax and fee increases are going to be voted on by bureaucratic special interests left and right,” Nouis said. “I want it to remain with you.”
Kraft-Tharp, on the other hand, sees merit on allowing voters to make the decision on tax increases, but TABOR’s cap on tax collection and spending is hurting the state.
“Ninety-thousand new people move into Colorado every year and what I hear is, `Why can’t we afford to pay for roads? Why can’t we afford to pay for education?’ We can’t because of TABOR,” Kraft-Tharp said.
Candidates were also asked how can the legislature make sure regulations do not stifle entrepreneurship.
Kraft-Tharp pointed to her experience on the Business Affairs Committee where she currently serves as chair and previously served as vice chair and House Bill 17-1270 that requires an analysis of fines imposed to businesses.
“Is there a specific industry that we’re fining? Is there a specific businesses that we’re fining? Is there specific regulations that are being fined? I think that’s the first step,” Kraft-Tharp said.
This was a subject Nouis said he is familiar with as a business owner — he owns a laser light show company — and has to send reports to the FDA but won’t hear a response for months.
“I send six emails, I make continuous calls,” Nouis said. “We need to reduce regulation and if you are going to have regulation, you need to have people who are going to be able to get a hold of for compliance. If you’re going to write law and you can’t follow up on law, you should have never written it in the first place.”
Baker said he agreed, noting rules need to be enforced.
Bird talked about collaborating with the business community to strike a balance in necessary regulations without being overreaching.
“Regulations are put in place for protections, but they shouldn’t be such a burden on business that we can’t do our business well,” Winter said.
Martinez Humenlik touted her efforts in the State Senate this past session to make regulation less overbearing.
“It’s very important that we keep Colorado a state that people want to come to — that they want to start businesses here and they want to be successful and they want to keep our economy going strong for years to come,” she said.
A full video of the forum, which included other questions to statehouse candidates as well as state attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state candidates, is posted on the Westminster Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page at facebook.com/WestminsterCC/.
The Westminster Chamber is hosting another forum, this time for candidates for Jefferson and Adams County Commissioners, at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 20 at Covenant Village, 9153 Yarrow St.
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