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How Denver politics affect Huerfano County

by Guy Blasi

WALSENBURG- The political climate this year is off to an interesting start.  Democrat Governor Bill Ritter has chosen not to seek re-election this coming November; as a result, the political landscape is once again in dynamic flux.  And, once again in Huerfano County, much of southeast Colorado and the San Luis Valley, citizens seem to be viewed as disposable due to the low number of voters.

    “I am very concerned by what’s happening,” said State Senator Ken Kester from Las Animas County.  He was referring to Colorado’s 1.3 billion (with a “B”) anticipated shortfall in this year’s state budget.  “We are facing a lot of cuts and I’m waiting to see the particulars on the legislation that’s coming out.  I think since Ritter is not running for re-election, we’re apt to see him vetoing a lot more bills that reach his desk,” Kester said.  “We’re likely to see a lot of cuts across the board in higher education and K though 12 as well as human services and transportation.”

    In a nutshell, these are very tough times in Colorado.  The stock markets might have rebounded but that does little for Huerfano County.  The hottest topic has been the proposed Army annexation at Pinon Canyon.  The leading Republican candidate is former Congressman Scott McInnis, who has stated he’s for the expansion, playing to  the voters within the military.  Although he’s a fellow Republican, Kester says he’s unable to support McInnis due to his stand on Pinon Canyon. “I can’t [support him] at this time.  I only met with him for two minutes yesterday [Monday] in Denver and he knows my position.  I know he’s playing a numbers game with the military electorate, but he has to realize there are a lot of other farmers and ranchers throughout the state who are watching his actions.” Kester said.  Regarding concerns about the possible use of eminent domain, where governmental entities can cease private property, Kester is confident that current Colorado law protects the owners of the land desired by the Army for expansion.

    Locally, the prediction is that taxes will increase.  For example, automobile registration taxes are being raised an average of $32 per vehicle to cope with budget shortfalls in the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and  to help with road projects.  Taxes are expected to go up this year nationally on other items such as food, gasoline, cigarettes, and even soda pop.  Many believe that substantial change in the local, state and national levels will be necessary in this year’s November elections.