Mountains

Everybody gets the deficit problem

I’ve just spent a week in Denver as a member of two legislative committees, one focused on Colorado wildfires and the other on our water resources, followed by attending the quarterly meeting of the executive committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The newly elected NCSL president and president-elect have selected their incoming committee leadership and I’m pleased that I’ve been asked to be the Republican co-chair of the national conference’s Budgets and Revenue Committee for the next two years. My Democratic co-chair and I have our work cut out for us.

Deficit reduction and budget issues at the national level must be faced by the next president and Congress. Sixteen trillion dollars of deficit and growing is unsustainable, and almost everyone gets that. How to reduce the deficit, though, is the sticking point and state legislators must be at the table in making those decisions. As a bipartisan organization, we’ll continue to make the case for prudent problem solving, an approach that has, so far, eluded those in Washington, D.C.

States appear to be doing a bit better economically, but there’s much concern about falling back into another recession. Based on our recent meeting, universal among state lawmakers is the desire for meaningful and sustainable economic development. Simply put, we need to foster a favorable environment for job creation.

There’s no silver bullet, but it’s clear that a steady supply of good jobs is critical. This was also the message I received recently at a roundtable of area business owners, from Pagosa Springs to Durango, Montrose and Norwood.

The feedback also continues to be a frustration over governmental red tape and the failure to respond quickly and effectively when government intersects with the private sector. People throw up their hands and pay penalties they know aren’t truly owed, because it costs more to fight the penalty assessment than to just pay it. That smacks of robbery and discourages entrepreneurship, the essential basis of Colorado’s, and America’s, economic engine.

Beating back federal unfunded mandates and getting control of spending at all governmental levels are other concerns frequently shared by constituents and these require an attentiveness and response from those elected to federal and state offices. There’s a wealth of interesting, nonpartisan information for the public as well as legislators on NCSL’s website, www.ncsl.org.

At the NCSL meeting, we identified our top concerns to present to our federal counterparts, including: greater respect for state sovereignty, reducing the federal deficit, providing greater flexibility to the states’ Medicaid programs and under the new federal health legislation, recognizing the importance of public infrastructure and developing domestic energy resources.

It’s important to remember this list was created by a bipartisan group of leaders elected from state legislators of both parties and as geographically and politically diverse as a group can be. We recognize the seriousness of the times we live in.

As the political season grinds on, keep in mind Winston Churchill’s quip that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” We need more problem solvers and those who are ready to make the difficult decisions and take risks that put the public’s long term interests first and personal ambitions second. Do your research on the candidates and remember to vote.

Ellen Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Sen. Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884, or email ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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