My positions and ideas on the issues below make it clear why the tagline for my campaign is "Ideas, not ideology"
Ideas should be judged on merit
Fair warning: if you came to this page looking for simple answers you will be disappointed. I am not for fracking or against fracking - I think we need to have a balanced approach toward fracking regulations. I am not pro growth or anti-growth, I think we need laws that help us manage growth effectively. These are not traditional partisan positions because I see the complexity and nuance in each of these big issues.
The major parties like to try to boil complex issues down to soundbites. But soundbites don't get the job done, they just get people angry. Coloradans are too smart for mere soundbites. My goal is to make government boring again by finding sensible solutions to issues just like these. My goal is to help legislators understand that there is more to politics than positions - the real work of government is about seeking creative solutions to tough problems.
Finally, it is also worth noting that these are starting points. I am not an expert in any of these issues and I don't have a crystal ball. I have ideas but I know those ideas need to be examined, discussed, and negotiated with other legislators before they become workable solutions. Perhaps that is what distinguishes my positions on these issues most - I am willing to adjust my thinking so that we can make the people of Colorado proud by actually solving tough issues.
Imagine what it would be like in Colorado if we had no net job growth for a decade. While roads may feel less crowded, our public and private economy would suffer. We would be trading one crisis for another. It is clear to me that a no-growth future is not desirable.
On the other hand, un-fetterd growth, the type of growth in which people and business flock to our state without a sensible plan for how their needs can be addressed leads to an equally dark future.
I want it both ways. I think we can have a strong economy and drivable roadways, livable cities, vibrant communities. Our challenge is to find ways to manage growth responsibly. This means thinking long-term about education, infrastructure, water, open-space, and zoning. This is the real work of government, legislators cannot afford to delegate it to other agencies, entities, and interest groups.
As a legislator, I would advocate for the development and execution of long-term plans on each of these important growth-related topics. Importantly, these long-term plans would be supported by requisite funding requirements. In other words, legislators would work more closely with state agencies, government entities, and private groups to develop executable plans. The legislature would then need to support these co-developed plans with legislation and reliable long-term funding.
From the many hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who suffer from poor health, and to the many hundreds of thousands more who have a loved one that is entangled in our healthcare system, this is the issue that keeps us up at night. Coloradans of all stripes know that they are just one bad accident or serious illness away from bankruptcy. Runaway medical costs have put health care treatments beyond the budgets of virtually all Coloradans. Healthcare also constrains the prosperity of small business. People are wise to worry about how they will be cared for if they get sick.
But healthcare is also incredibly complicated. The patchwork of rules, requirements, and regulations put actual healthcare decisions at the end of a long chain of interested parties that include doctors, insurance providers, regulators, state and federal legislators, family members, and, yes, patients. The many incentives at work along this chain, coupled with absurdly obscure pricing on everything from a simple aspirin to an intricate brain surgery, means that none of us, regardless of how much we pay for our insurance, are confident about our care if something really serious happens.
Uncertainty is scary and complexity is frustrating. So, simple-sounding solutions seem seductive. The competing calls for total government-run healthcare are just as impractical as the assertions that a purely market-based solution will fix what ails our healthcare system. The truth is, as a matter of policy and politics, neither of these extreme positions is practical. People who focus on these simple sounding solutions, therefore, are trying to fan the partisan flames.
The debate about whether or not healthcare is a right is also a distraction: the fact remains, for millions of Coloradans, healthcare is an urgent need. I don’t have all the answer to this complex problem, but I do know that the status quo is not a viable option for Coloradans. We need to think creativity on healthcare and we need to consider the best ideas, no matter which side proposes them.
Unfortunately, Colorado cannot effectively construct a set of solution that will fix our entire healthcare system on its own; other actors in the healthcare miasma, including insurance companies and the federal government, play a role in any major change to our system. Any politician who claims they can deliver universal coverage for the state is either uninformed, insincere, or both.
What we do need, and what our legislative leader can achieve if they work together, are a series of smaller-scale adjustments that will improve the performance of the healthcare system that we have to live with for the foreseeable future. Specifically, we need to require clear prices from providers, and we need to take action to address the opioid crisis in our state.
Colorado can become a healthcare leader by mandating price transparency throughout our system. Providers who serve Coloradans should be forced to publish prices of all procedures, drugs, and charges associated with the healthcare they provide. Additionally, price publishing requirements should mandate that providers post single prices for their five most common services, products, or drugs. Everyone understands that when your car needs serious maintenance a ‘custom price’ is often required, but for a routine oil change or a brake job a posted price should be clear.
Another innovation Colorado should institute in the healthcare arena is robust public-private coverage model for those afflicted with opioid addiction. The scourge of opioid abuse can be found in every Colorado community -- it is sapping the lifeblood from our most vibrant communities. And the economic toll it is taking on our state is much higher when the problem is ignored than it would be if we have leaders who were willing to address this problem head-on. The people who are addicted to opioids need and deserve our help, and, when rehabilitated, will again make important contributions to our state, our small businesses, and the communities we all love. For this reason, I would like to work with drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation groups in Colorado, and with large private employers and small business to develop a program of response and treatment for those who suffer from opioid addiction. Our entire state, but especially those in most need of our attention, will benefit from more sensible opioid policies.
For decades, Colorado, like many other states, has not allocated sufficient resources to its public employee retirement account. While the system is not yet insolvent, it is clear that left to their own devices our state lawmakers will avoid dealing with this emerging crisis until solving it is a true emergency.
To get PERA on a sound financial footing, two significant changes are required. First, and most obviously, our state budget needs to allocate the necessary resources to PERA, while keeping the existing PERA reserves wisely and safely invested on behalf of both Colorado retirees and employees. PERA is an obligation we must fulfill; it is a commitment we have made to a large portion of the employees and retirees in our state. We simply have to stand by our commitments.
But funding PERA is not sufficient. We also need to be honest with current and future employees about the constraints of the PERA system. We need to raise the retirement age immediately, and we also need to trim additional benefits where feasible. We might very well need to consider migrating to a defined contribution program, instead of a defined benefit program. Such changes require careful communication and gradual implementation, but our state employees would rather be told to truth about the system they are investing in now than be shocked when the system they have been counting on is no longer extant. This is a crisis of our own making, but it is a crisis that we can fix with relatively modest adjustments.
I also know that our legislators need insight into PERA's inner workings because each time PERA publishes a long range forecast it manages to catch legislators off guard. We should require transparency into the state of PERA's finances so that our legislators and the state treasurer can work together to find ways to avert a crisis before it is upon us.
Colorado lawmakers have been talking about rural broadband, in various forms, for almost twenty-five years. My guess is that by the time they manage to connect rural communities with high-speed internet, the technology will have moved on, and the state-funded infrastructure will have become outdated or obsolete. Rural broadband initiatives should be abandoned so that individuals and local communities can get on with the business of solving this problem for themselves. If rural communities cannot afford high-speed connections, then they should face that sad truth. After all, even proponents of rural broadband funding recognize that the smallest and most isolated communities cannot and will not be connected. Colorado should avoid the temptation to try to solve such problems, especially when doing so might well lead to the creation of either another government-funded monopoly or a half-baked program that is abandoned when a better solution emerges.
While some parts of our state are well-suited for farming, the vast majority of Colorado, in its natural condition, is a high-altitude desert that is not a good place for agriculture. While some of the farms that abut natural water sources would flourish on their own, and while a few regions in Colorado boast conditions that can produce abundant crops, most of the current farms would not survive without subsidized water. In fact, many agricultural areas of our state are highly dependent on water that is funneled from other places in Colorado. In other words, despite their profound contribution to the development of our state, many Colorado farms are not economically sustainable in their current form.
Our state needs to implement policies based on the reality that Colorado’s farming community, especially on the Front Range, is incredibly small. Colorado’s agricultural sector—including all the people in our state who grow and harvest cannabis, and all the people who grow hops, barley, and grapes for beer, liquor, and wine—accounts for just 1.22% of our population. In State Senate District 30 there are only 106 people involved in agriculture. Policies that made sense 100 years ago when about half of Coloradans were farmers should not be perpetuated because of some nostalgic ideas about who we are.
The combination of water subsidies and a small population of people who actually farm means that the water and other subsidies Colorado lavishes on the agricultural sector is actually just a subsidy for large industrial farms, many of which are not even based in Colorado. So, the time has come to curtail wasteful subsidies to large corporations and to be honest with family farmers. They need to be encouraged to begin the process of adopting economically sustainable farming practices or gradually abandoning unsustainable farms, finding other sources of income, and encouraging their kids to prepare for non-farm careers in other parts of the state.
I am not advocating for immediate implementation of radical changes to agricultural policies when I am elected. Instead, I plan to start an honest dialogue with affected communities so that together, all Coloradans can begin to make more sensible, balanced plans and policies. This recalibration will require careful planning, gradual implementation, robust retraining, and other forms of transition support. Changes of this sort are never easy, but when programs and policies no longer make sense, leaders need to be honest with people and then step up to implement necessary changes.
Our society has made great strides in my lifetime on this issue, but we must continue to defend the rights of all people to live the life they wish to live without fear of discrimination or prejudice on the basis of their sexuality. Our current system of state and federal laws protects these rights thoroughly, but I recognize that it is equally important to remain vigilant to ensure that people are not discriminated against in their daily lives.
Colorado has a unique physical environment. Our environment brings immense joy the people who call Colorado home, as well as significant economic benefit from those who visit our state. For a host of reasons, our leaders should strive to keep our air, water, and land as clean as possible. But these goals should be pursued within the limit of reason, and should be balanced in the context of other state priorities.
I have no problem with the responsible identification, extraction, and use of fossil fuels. That said, if it were up to me, I would impose a fair but gradual carbon tax on energy production. But this type of solution is politically difficult, and is also a depressingly long way off. In the near-term, we need to enforce reasonable regulations that keep our air, water, and ground safe.
From a policy perspective, I also support the expansion and use of renewable energy. My wife and I put solar panels on our house and we drive an electric car primary because we like saving money. Had tax incentives not been available we may not have chosen to invest in either of these cost-saving solutions. So to the extent we really value renewable energy, we need to be willing to use our state's financial resources to both give it a competitive boost, and then be willing to let it compete in the open market with other forms of energy generation technology.
Finally, I do believe global warming is real. What is more, I expect in another 20 years most all Coloradans will come to share this view. But I do not support proposals to protect our environment at the extreme expense of our economy. I believe we can have a strong economy and a healthy environment too. As a legislator I would work to strike a balance between our state's long-term economic and environmental needs.