Jared Polis is the U.S. Representative for Colorado’s Second Congressional District, and the Democratic candidate for governor of Colorado. Polis took time after his campaign stops in Chaffee County to answer some questions posed by Ark Valley Voice:
AVV: On universal healthcare for CO: We tried a single payer referendum in this state two years ago, and it got 20 percent of the vote. You are an advocate of a single-payer system. What do you think went wrong with the previous attempt, and what would you do differently to get it passed?
JP: Americans — and Coloradans — are getting ripped off on health care. We pay twice as much other countries and we get less. Too many families are going into debt because of the exorbitant cost. We need immediate action to lower the cost, expand access and improve quality. Any idea that meets these goals is an idea that I will embrace. Unfortunately, Amendment 69 didn’t meet those criteria, which is why I didn’t support it.
Under my plan, we’re going to use every tool available to us to save money not only for consumers but also for small businesses. We’re going to take immediate action to lower prescription drug costs, reduce premiums and expand access to speciality health services throughout the state. And we’ll work with other western states on a universal health care system with maximum negotiating power so that we can lower costs for all.
AVV: Chaffee County is putting forth a ballot initiative this November to raise the sales tax in order to create a fund for addressing projects protecting the environment and agriculture in the county against the effects of growth and outdoor recreation. You mentioned the idea of “Creating outdoor recreation districts like arts districts.” Can you elaborate a little on this concept and how it might interact with a local government fund like this one?
JP: Colorado Conservation and Recreation Districts will harness the economic power of these landscapes to highlight Colorado’s natural outdoor assets and promote each community’s unique attractions. Through a coordinated effort alongside conservationists, sportsmen and sportswomen, and the outdoor recreation industry, we will provide educational opportunities and access to grant funding to support conservation and recreational entrepreneurship. Housed under the shared jurisdiction of the Office of Economic Development and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this program will help more Coloradans forge a special connection with our natural resources, further strengthening the Colorado economy. By highlighting unique hidden gems in Colorado outdoors, we can reduce stress on our state’s most popular trails while driving new business to main streets in our less-traveled areas.
This effort goes hand-in-hand with local efforts to promote conservation efforts because they are working toward a shared goal — preserving the treasured outdoor spaces that power economy and our special Colorado way of life.
AVV: You mention education, and the idea of free or reduced early childhood education, as being a priority for you. Research has shown that raising the education level of the parent is the single greatest factor in raising the education level of a child, and yet we almost never hear about the necessity for providing adequate funding for adult education and family literacy in Colorado. What are your views on the connection between adult education opportunities, including vocational training, adult basic education, English as a Second Language, etc., and pre-K-12 education? What sort of funding and opportunities for post-high-school education are you proposing?
JP: One of the best ways to ensure that someone succeeds in high school or college is to set them up for success in preschool and kindergarten. Providing access to full day preschool and kindergarten not only sets our children up for a bright academic and economic future, but it also gives parents the freedom to go back to work or go through an adult education program earlier if they choose. We need to improve educational opportunities across the full spectrum — from pre-K, to K-12, to college, trade schools and vocational schools.
After the businesses I started took off, I founded nonprofits that helped equip veterans, military families and other entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they needed to launch their own companies. So I’ve seen firsthand the transformative value of adult education opportunities. Under my plan, we’ll expand access to registered apprenticeship opportunities that enable Coloradans to get started on good paying, 21st century careers. We’ll make dual and concurrent enrollment programs available to 100 percent of Colorado high school students so that they have a head start on preparing to join an increasingly global and competitive workforce. And we’ll improve funding for childcare programs for parents who are balancing starting a family with furthering their education to earn new skills.
AVV: What are your thoughts on Initiative 97, the call for increase in setbacks for oil and gas drilling?
JP: There’s more we can do to protect health and safety, but this approach is not the right one. It’s a one-size-fits-all policy that doesn’t provide homeowners or communities with the flexibility they need. We should have stronger setbacks as a back stop when the land owner and operator can’t reach an agreement. But I think encouraging them to get to a surface use agreement is important and is the best thing for our communities, particularly rural communities, where surface-use agreements are a vital source of income for many farmers and ranchers.
On this subject, I also oppose Initiative 108, which would be extremely harmful for our way of life.Initiative 108 would prevent cities and towns from enacting virtually any guidelines to ensure our neighborhoods remain livable, enjoyable places to raise our kids.