Costs of government action often divides candidates
By Patrick Armijo, Herald Staff Writer
Wants are many but resources are scarce; it’s a division that frequently separates views on public policies.
In state Senate District 6, the southwestern corner of the state, how far government should go to address needs given scarce resources emerges as a dividing theme when comparing incumbent Don Coram, R-Montrose, with his opponent, Guinn Unger, a Bayfield Democrat.
Both candidates were interviewed by The Durango Herald editorial board, Unger on Thursday and Coram on Monday.
Amendment 73, a $1.6 billion tax increase to provide funding for education, exemplifies the cost-versus-action divide that separates the two.
The income tax hike is aimed at the wealthiest Coloradans – applying only to people making more than $150,000 a year with gradually increasing tax rates, and it would actually lower homeowners’ property tax rates in school districts across the state.
But a provision in Amendment 73 that would increase the state’s corporate tax rate from 4.63 percent to 6 percent, Coram said, would be too damaging.
“We have the No. 1 economy in the country, and this measure would not encourage corporations to come to Colorado,” he said.
Unger finds Amendment 73 too complex, but ultimately, he said he would vote for it.
“If we don’t properly fund education,” Unger said, “we are not going to have a properly educated workforce. Our kids will not get good jobs, and we won’t be able to attract companies to the Western Slope.”
A similar divide emerges when both candidates are asked whether they would support another ballot measure to increase the distance between new oil and gas development and occupied buildings.
Proposition 112 would increase the setback for new oil and gas development to 2,500 feet from homes, occupied buildings and vulnerable areas, such as playgrounds, sports fields, parks and amphitheaters.
The current setbacks are 1,000 feet for high-occupancy buildings, such as schools and hospitals, 500 feet for homes and 350 feet from outdoor areas, such as playgrounds.
Unger said he would prefer the setback be 2,000 feet. While he hasn’t come to a final decision on whether to vote for Proposition 112, he said he would consider voting for the measure and its 2,500-foot setback.
Coram, weighing the cost of the measure, said he has seen estimates that Proposition 112 could affect 230,000 jobs and cost the state $32 billion in revenue generated from the oil and natural gas industry. He will vote NO.
“Frankly, I don’t think the state can afford it,” he said.
If elected, Unger said he would focus his efforts on improving health insurance for Coloradans, combating climate change and improving funding for education.
Coram said he would focus his efforts on providing funding for a statewide water plan that guides water policy in nine different river basins and on toughening laws on the use of drones by private individuals over forest fires.