by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG- Third Congressional District Congressman Scott Tipton (R) stopped in Walsenburg Tuesday morning to visit with a group of citizens and then later in the morning with the county commissioners. His message was twofold. First he wanted to reassure the people of the county he intends to fulfill the promises he made while campaigning, and second he wanted to reassure the county commissioners that his office will listen to the needs and the concerns of the people of Huerfano County.
Tipton’s first stop was at the Walsenburg Bible Church where he addressed a crowd of twenty-five residents. He began by saying, “This is a critical time in our country when we must make some tough decisions.”
Tipton addressed three main issues. Concerning Piñon Canyon, Tipton reiterated his promise to “support the farmers and ranchers of our agricultural community.” He said they are a vital part of the economic community of southeastern Colorado and it is important to preserve their livelihood. Tipton commented that the legislative spending ban on Piñon Canyon, due to expire on September 30, should be extended.
Tipton also spoke on the budget deficit and the September 30 deadline when the deficit will increase beyond the $14.3 trillion debt. According to Tipton, people in Washington don’t understand the impact of the recession going on in this country because everyone there is well paid. He said, “I’d like to bring them to places like Walsenburg to see the real America.” To put his comments in perspective on the enormity of the debt, he compared an NBA superstars’ $40 million dollar a year paycheck to the debt. “He would have to play basketball 25,000 years just to pay off one trillionth of the debt. I hope he’s healthy.” His comment drew a chuckle from the crowd along with a shocked silence.
He also addressed the current oil crisis and offered solutions to utilize our natural resources. As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, Tipton spoke with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar about utilizing what we have. Salazar said the Department of Energy has not done a cost benefit analysis of what we have, but by other independent studies, America has plenty of natural gas, oil, oil shale and coal bed methane to meet America’s oil needs. Tipton said, “When are we going to dig and take advantage of our own natural resources?” He commented that with the amount of oil shale under American soil, we could be oil independent within 5 years. Increased production will also create more jobs here and put Americans back to work.
He did offer solutions however. He is sponsoring legislation to reduce the corporate and capital gains tax to 10%. Tipton said, “We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world and it’s about time we became competitive.” Under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, when the corporate tax rate was lower, jobs were created and business capital was reinvested back into America. He wants to create jobs for the poorer counties in his district to stimulate the economy and stop unemployment Tipton told the commissioners the counties in the Third District, with the exception of the resort towns, all have double digit unemployment. Tipton also co-sponsored a single issue legislation bill which will disallow adding amendments or pork to any legislative proposal.
Tipton then met with the commissioners to address needs specific to Huerfano County. This was our commissioners’ chance to lament the problems facing constituents in his district. Of concern was the Highway Users Trust Fund (HUTF). Monies for the Roads and Bridges which come from this fund, are allocated through state dollars that set priorities on a needs basis. A proposed way to fund HUTF is to add an additional 5 cent per gallon gas tax for three years, which Tipton opposes. “Before I move to raise any taxes we need to look at every possible resource. People are already paying too much to fill their tank and to add more will only hurt business.” Tipton feels it is important to build infrastructure and prioritize the importance of proposed projects. He views this as another way to create local jobs.
Another topic of discussion was the Public Lands Trust that generates no tax base for the county. User fees do not provide any income to the county and there are expenses that are the responsibility of the counties. Almost one-third of Tipton’s district is public lands. Tipton also stated that too many regulations govern the uses of such lands including environmental impact issues that prevent exploration of natural resources. Commissioner Cain encouraged Tipton to see exactly where the user fees go because “they don’t add up.” This was one more item Tipton added to his list.
One of the most important takeaways of the meeting concerned progress in economic development in the area. The commissioners told Tipton one of the best success stories in the county was the development by private enterprise of a broadband internet service that saved several companies from leaving the county. Cain said, “We have a large home-based community which depends on high speed internet to survive.” It was local companies that made that happen. Tipton was impressed by the grassroots efforts that enabled the enterprise.
The commissioners emphasized the county’s need for a study of the impact of coal bed methane production on our water. The Environmental Protection Agency’s impact study included all of south central Colorado. Huerfano County’s needs are unique and different from those of Las Animas for instance. The Commissioners asked Tipton to look into having a United States Geological Survey study done for Huerfano County alone. If the county’s concern about water issues can be worked out, then methane exploration may become a source of revenue.
The final issue dealt with local economic development, specifically a grant application. Huerfano County submitted an application to the Economic Development Administration, and they are unable to find out if the paperwork has been processed. County Administrator John Galusha expressed his dissatisfaction with the bureaucratic run around he is getting from the Denver field office concerning an application for a $1.5 million dollar grant for development at the Cuchara Mountain Resort of a conference center and infrastructure. Tipton said he would see if he could help get information to expedite the application.
Tipton concluded by stating he will work with the commissioners in every county to bring jobs and prosperity and will do what he needs to help everyone through this economic crisis. Tipton said, “The America we grew up in is changing. If we don’t do anything about it, we will be in trouble.” Whether you have an R, I or D after your name, Tipton is working for the good of all and wants to rid us of the debt we will leave our children and grandchildren.