Partisan politics is about figuring out what to say to each group to get elected. But governing requires leaders to share and apply their priorities
We need leaders who prioritize well
Prioritization is about making tough decisions and living with the consequences. With a bipartisan coalition, I will lead the charge to set sensible priorities. I will see that we not only live within our means but we also get the biggest bang for our collective bucks. And I will be honest with Coloradans whose interests may not be fully met in any given year. This type of honest prioritization is what Colorado needs today, and it is the only way I know how to do business. The bottom line is this: I see the trees clearly, but I see the whole forest too.
You don’t need to drive very far to see that our roads are crumbling and overcrowded. This costs each of us time and money. Fixing this problem on a long-term basis requires far more money than the legislature has seen fit to allocate in the past several decades, which means we spend more money on maintenance and repair than we need to, and far less on new roads and road expansions.
In an effort to avoid tax increases, our leaders have attached fees to many aspects of daily life, and have even gone so far as to borrow against state assets in complex and costs finance schemes. Recent legislation, for example, allocated $645 Million to CDOT when CDOT says it needs $9 Billion to address our top priority road needs. These short-term fixes postpone inevitable investments and increase long-term costs. Under funded roads put CDOT in a position to impose toll lanes and one-lane-at-a-time expansions, which are inefficient and unfair. Under the 2018 legislative agreement we will pay far more in interest payments than we need to. Short-term thinking wins elections (and benefits partisans), but its long-term costs hurt taxpayers and impede the economic growth of our state.
Although people from both sides of the political spectrum agree that roads are a core function of government, little to nothing of value gets done in the legislature to improve the roads we all rely on. The time has come to break this partisan stalemate. It is time for our leaders to find the political will to pay for new roads, improve the ones we have, and think long-term about this important priority.
Road funding is complex, but here is a simple framework for how I think about this complex topic. Some things need to be fostered and encouraged, some things need to be considered more carefully, and some things need to be avoided. Take a look at my roads summary and let me know if you have any questions.
Colorado Roads Need:
20 year planning
Colorado Roads Don't Need:
A rush to raise taxes
High interest payments
Every kid in Colorado deserves a strong K-12 education that sets them up for success, whether or not they choose to continue their education at a college, vocational, or technical school. Unfortunately, not enough kids in Colorado are getting this type of education.
Partisans advance educational fads to promote their own ideology, ignoring obvious pragmatic solutions. But the real solution lies with the people who spend the most time educating our children each day: their teachers. If we want better outcomes, we must make teachers -- not administrators, school facilities, or technologies -- our top educational budget priority.
Given the fact that our state spends less per kid than many states, and pays its teachers even less on a cost-adjusted basis than almost all other states, it is no wonder we have such a hard time attracting and retaining great teachers here in Colorado. As Colorado continues to grow, we need a system that rewards our state’s very best teachers and draws top talent from other states. All teachers deserve an increase in pay so that they don't have to dip into their pockets to buy supplies for our kids, but some among them - the ones who are truly doing right by our kids - deserve significantly higher compensation.
Right here in Douglas county we have a pay for performance system in place that, in theory, gives higher compensation to our best public school teachers. Talk to any teacher and you will quickly understand what a joke this system really is. Because of chronic under-funding from our state's legislators, a teacher who earned top marks in 2017 is paid only 1% more in 2018 than a teacher who turned in below average performance. In other words, seniority matters most when it comes to compensation. What we need is a well-funded system that provides a meaningful incentive to teachers.
Our Teachers Need:
Very attractive compensation plans
Fair and consistent evaluations
Our Teachers Don't Need:
To be taken for granted by politicians
Gold-plated pensions to make up for unfair pay
Tenure and time-in-grade promotions
Used as a fundraising tool and bargaining chip
District boundaries should be drawn up to produce competition between the two major parties so that everyone, not just an extreme sub-set of each party, gets to choose our leaders.
Our political system is in disarray, and our legislature could—but so far has not evinced any willingness to—take urgent action to get our government back on track. It is time to put in place checks and balances that will ensure an equal playing field for all people of goodwill who wish to serve as representatives of their neighbors, coworkers, and family members. One of the most meaningful ways to guarantee broad-based participation, and one of my top priorities during my legislative tenure, is fair redistricting.
Like many Coloradans, I support establishing fairer, less partisan voting districts for both state and federal elections. The lines we draw between voters often determine which party will win the seat, so an unfair map confers an unfair advantage to one party. As a result, an unfair map alienates the entire population of voters in that district who tend not to vote with that chosen party. And it leads to even deeper polarization in our political system.
I support the idea of drawing lines between districts that maximizes competition between parties. After all, vigorous competition makes each candidate better and ensures that parties can’t take any vote for granted. Ideally, each district would have roughly equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters. These districts would force candidates to cater to voters across the entire political spectrum, reducing the power of the most radical elements of each party.
I support Colorado’s Fair Districts initiative, which is spearheaded by Kathleen Curry, a former Democrat representative in the Colorado house who later became an Independent. Kathleen is a true Independent and she shares my belief that partisan districts undermine the will of the people. This Fair Districts initiative is catching fire in Colorado because our citizens understand that our partisan, gerrymandered districts benefit the parties at the expense of the people.
In fact, the Colorado Legislature saw fit to refer Kathleen's fair districts initiative to the November ballot in 2018. This means Coloradans will get a chance to mandate that our state adopt the fair districts approach when drawing up future federal and state political boundaries. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so kudos to the leaders who made this possible. That said, I fear Democrats and Republicans will use dark money donations to oppose this great idea, so brace yourself for an onslaught of false claims about what this sensible process improvement is all about.
Regardless of the fate of the fair districts initiative in 2018, I am committed to seeing this effort through to completion. We need fair districts in Colorado because we need parties to compete in the marketplace for ideas.