Election Guide 2016: Diane Mitsch Bush Q&A
Bio: Diane moved here from Minnesota in 1976 to finish her PhD and ski. She immediately became interested in western water and agriculture issues — concerns that have never flagged. Since then, she has been an ardent volunteer, award-winning professor, county commissioner from 2007 to 2012 and is our District 26 representative.
Q. The creation of affordable, workforce housing is a major problem facing many mountain communities. What strategies would you employ to help solve this issue?
A. As your state representative, I will continue to support giving local public-private-non-profit partnerships additional tools and funding to tackle the supply-demand gap. In 2016, I co-sponsored the extension of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the First-Time Buyer Mortgage Savings Account. I support our work to reduce state red tape for local housing authorities and making sure that the Department of Revenue does not again try to rescind the sales/use tax exemption for local organizations building affordable housing. As your former county commissioner, now your state representative, I know the difference between realistic, unrealistic and infeasible solutions, and those over which the Legislature has no authority. When I advocate solutions, I have done my homework. The proposal to “Designate free forest land for affordable housing” reflects lack of due diligence. To sell any public land requires an Act of Congress, and the USFS must charge market value for that land.
Q. How will you work to implement Colorado’s Water Plan?
A. On the Joint Water Committee from 2013 through 2015, I worked together with all stakeholders to make sure the public was heard in developing Colorado’s Water Plan, especially in our headwaters river basins. For plan implementation, I will continue to bring people together in our communities and at the Capitol to fund projects that conserve our water, manage the health and quality of our streams and protect our habitat. We must also foster a better understanding of the impact of climate change on our mountain headwaters. I will work to keep our rivers free-flowing in their basins of origin and to recognize water rights and prior appropriation. I will continue to oppose any policy that would move water from the West slope, especially from the Colorado and Yampa Rivers, to the Front Range. Now, over 50 percent of municipal supply along the Front Range comes from West Slope Basins.
Q. Do you support Amendment 69? Why or why not? Please explain.
Q. I support efforts for universal coverage with lower costs. However, I have three major concerns about this proposal. 1) The accountability and qualifications of the interim, politically-appointed board, and the final elected board are unclear. They will immediately confront difficult unanswered questions such as required federal waivers and they will have broad powers. 2) Fiscal solvency is essential, yet independent studies question the solvency of this plan in years three and four. 3) The possibility of unintended consequences is concerning: This program may especially burden small businesses, sole proprietors and people now on other federal plans. This plan is not ready to become law. I know you — especially patients, providers and small businesses — are frustrated by lack of choice, intrusion of insurance companies into patient/doctor relationships and outrageously high costs of healthcare in our region, which are a real emergency. I continue to work for state-level legislative solutions.
Q. What issues is the state now facing as a result of the legalization of marijuana and how would you plan to address those issues?
A. From 2013 to 2016 we have worked with many stakeholders to implement legalized recreational marijuana as approved by voters in 2012. Now, marijuana tax dollars provide funding for building better schools ($40 million), addiction intervention and prevention, school drop-out prevention and local impact mitigation. Working together, we made progress in clearly labeling edibles to distinguish them from food products without marijuana. We passed a marijuana DUI law, but we must further clarify marijuana DUI testing, laws and training for officers. I hope that, as the science gets better, we can refine and better target DUI laws to get impaired drivers off our roads. We need more programs for early intervention, substance abuse and addiction treatment, prevention and education. Many locals are working on these issues. We must ensure that marijuana tax dollars continue to let marijuana to pay its own way and not fund pork barrel projects.
Q. Reliable broadband is hugely importance to businesses and location-neutral workers in Northwest Colorado. What are you doing to improve broadband connectivity and redundancy in your district?
A. I cosponsored the 2014 bill to create the Colorado Broadband Deployment Board, authorizing them to award grants from landline fees to enable private broadband providers to better serve underserved areas where there is no competition. The first set of awards is due soon. In order to jumpstart markets, Routt and Eagle counties voted to opt-out of the prohibition on local government/non-profit partnerships building infrastructure. Locally, public/non-profit entities including YVEA, our hospital, schools, CMC and government have worked effectively as the Northwest Broadband Group toward building “Middle Mile” connections that would allow network availability to interested private sector partners. In 2015, when the non-redundant CenturyLink fiber connecting us to the world was cut twice, I immediately got on the phone with the CenturyLink VP to demand action. Connections matter. I will continue to help build partnerships to fund and facilitate redundancy, reliability, and help attract more private investment.
Q. What are your strategies for protecting existing energy jobs in your district while at the same time preparing for a future that could rely more and more on alternative sources of energy?
A. Since Peabody declared bankruptcy, I have communicated frankly and often with Xcel’s Michele Stermer and Peabody’s Michael Blank. Answering my questions, Michael Blank assured me: 1) Jobs and benefits at Twentymile would continue at existing levels, and 2) Peabody would honor coal contracts with Xcel’s Hayden Station Power plant. Volatile, declining international thermal and metallurgical coal markets, and low natural gas prices were major reasons for Peabody’s bankruptcy filing. Twentymile is one of Peabody’s most profitable mines because of their high-quality, cleaner-burning coal, their highly-skilled workforce with an excellent safety record, and their high levels of environmental compliance. Peabody is now doing planning for opening a new coal seam. We can succeed by supporting policies that foster new energy-efficiency businesses and by investing in innovative projects like YVEA’s new community solar garden. We must also invest in workforce training in these rapidly growing industries and in aerospace component supply.
Q. If you are elected, what are your top legislative priorities?
A. By setting aside petty partisan differences and egos, listening to all points of view, and working with all stakeholders, statewide and local, we can develop evidence-based policy for these top priorities: Sustainable transportation funding; congestion relief on the I-70 Mountain Corridor; sustainable implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan; reliable full funding for K-12, early childhood education and higher education; tackle the high cost of health insurance in our mountain communities, using solutions from our High Premiums/High Cost of Healthcare stakeholder group led by the lieutenant governor. I continue to collaborate with stakeholders for solutions; workforce programs, apprenticeships and incentives to better match employers’ needs with employee skills in high wage jobs, especially in rural areas where a major employer has left; and bringing advanced manufacturing to our state and our district, especially including outdoor manufacturing, renewable energy, energy efficiency, high tech and aerospace companies.
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