Election Guide 2016: Emily Tracy Q&A
Bio: Emily has lived in Colorado since 1965, rural Colorado since 1977. She teaches at Colorado Mountain College, co-leads the Conflict Resolution Coalition, Summit County. Bachelor’s degree in Humanities, master’s degree in public administration, emphasis environmental management. Child protection, foster care, adoption, courts, nonprofits. Eight years, City Council, Cañon City.
Q. What are you doing or what would you do to help important transportation issues move forward in Colorado?
A. Colorado’s transportation funding has been inadequate for years. Many roads are sub-standard, and in some places, there are an inadequate number of lanes for the traffic load. Also, we are behind on expanding alternative modes of transportation such as rail (with the exception of the successfully expanding RTD rail system in the Denver area). If the legislature during the 2016 session had designated the hospital provider fee as an enterprise fund, it might have freed up roughly $100 million for roads, schools and other needs. However, Republicans in the Senate opposed this designation, so the state is still left with the unsolved problem of inadequate transportation funding. The only way transportation bonding might work would be to have a designated funding stream to repay the bonds. That does not currently exist. I believe we should begin to solve the problem by designating the hospital provider fee an enterprise fund.
Q. Colorado is experiencing a surge in opioid abuse and related overdose deaths. What measures do you think can be enacted by the state legislature to combat this growing epidemic?
A. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sales of prescription opioids nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, and overdose deaths increased at about the same rate, while there was no change in the overall amount of pain people experienced. There is no doubt that the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose deaths must be approached in multiple ways. We need to look at prescribing practices in Colorado and determine if there needs to be greater oversight of those practices (for example, are there certain medical practices or pain clinics that appear to be overprescribing?). We may need tighter regulation of the prescribing of opioids, with smaller amounts prescribed at one time and closer monitoring of doctors and patients. There also needs to be a larger public education campaign to help the general public understand the risks of using opioids.
Q. Wild fires are destructive and expensive to Colorado. How do you think the state can improve mitigation programs to reduce those fires?
A. While natural and prescribed burns are needed for forest health, the state and fire protection districts should be more proactive in ensuring that owners of residential properties in the wildland urban interface have done all recommended fire mitigation work so that property losses are reduced to the extent possible. It may seem harsh but it is appropriate when fire protection districts and departments decide which properties they will try to protect from wildfire and which properties they will not take extraordinary means to protect, because of the lack of mitigation work done prior to the wildfire. Land use planning decisions should also be more carefully undertaken by local governments to reduce the risk of expensive losses of property due to wildfire. Local governments should establish regulations to ensure that the siting of a residence, and the development of property, is done in a way to reduce property loss from wildfires.
Q. If you are elected, what are your top three legislative priorities and how will you work to get them accomplished?
A. Because of my long background in child protection, foster care and adoption, I certainly have a strong interest in making improvements in state/county systems governing those areas. However, there are perhaps more pressing needs for residents of Northwest Colorado including solving a substantial affordable housing shortage and solving the highest-in-the-nation cost of health insurance in our part of the state. I believe the state can do more to support community efforts to expand affordable housing including improved state funding. Regarding healthcare costs, our healthcare system is complex and in many ways disconnected from the economic realities of our residents and communities. We need more transparency regarding cost drivers, we need more health insurance choices, and we need a fair and equitable system of approving insurance rates throughout the state, so that northwest Colorado doesn’t continue to pay the highest rates in the country.
Q. In order to balance the 2017 budget, what budgetary issues must be solved and how would you address those issues?
A. Colorado’s Constitution requires the state budget be balanced every year. However, there are many restrictions in the Constitution including TABOR — the most restrictive tax and spending limitation in the country — regarding how much revenue can be retained by the state, and spent. Those restrictions have made it difficult for the state to provide services at times of an economic downturn and has made it impossible for us to keep up with ongoing basic needs such as maintaining highways and providing adequate funding for public schools. There is no easy solution for our burdensome Constitutional restrictions, but Colorado needs strong leadership on the issue and a comprehensive public education program so that voters can eventually make necessary adjustments to our Constitutional budget restrictions. Until those restrictions are fixed, basic government services will have inadequate funding, and the legislature will be forced to continue budgetary gimmicks to balance the budget each year.
Q. Do you support keeping public lands public? Please explain why or why not.
A. I support keeping public lands public. Of the 35 Senate districts in Colorado, Senate District 8 has more acreage of public lands than any other district. Those lands contribute a variety of benefits to residents and visitors — hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, ranching and other activities. Recent studies by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division found that outdoor recreation contributes $34.5 billion to Colorado’s economy annually. Northwest and north central Colorado accounted for 51 percent of that economic impact, and 117,000 jobs in the region result from outdoor recreation. Northwest Colorado’s public lands are a key part of our tourism economy. There is no better way to manage those public lands than the current federal system — the state does not have the resources to manage additional public lands. Turning them over to private interests would end access to and enjoyment of those lands, and devastate our regional economy.
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. There has been a long history of boom and bust cycles in the fossil fuel industry, impacting workers and the communities in which they live. It is the nature of the industry, due in part to global supply and demand changes. Because of the industry cycling between high production years with strong employment numbers and low production with the loss of significant numbers of jobs, there is not a way for government to protect energy jobs. The state can play a role, however, in several areas: It can strengthen technical assistance services to communities to aid them in diversifying their economies, and it can create a more robust system of job retraining for workers who do not want to relocate when energy jobs decline or move. Alternative energy production will continue to grow as technologies improve, and Colorado will remain fortunate in having a broad array of energy sources.
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