Taylor, Fetcher debate at Club 20 | PostIndependent.com

Taylor, Fetcher debate at Club 20

GRAND JUNCTION – Experience vs. independence.That’s one way of summing up how the two candidates for state Senate District 8 are seeking to distinguish themselves this fall.State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, cites his eight years in the Colorado House of Representatives and four years in the Senate as reason to re-elect him this November. His challenger, Jay Fetcher, also of Routt County, touts his insistence on being free from the influences of special interest money as reason for voters to choose him as District 8 senator instead.The district covers seven northwestern Colorado counties, including Garfield and Eagle counties.Taylor and Fetcher laid out some of their key positions Saturday during a debate at Club 20’s fall meeting.Taylor said he is widely considered in the legislature to be the senior state legislator on the Western Slope.”I think it’s important that we keep that experience down there so we have a transition period when we have so many new people coming in,” he said.He said it can take several years to learn the ropes as a state lawmaker.But Fetcher told Taylor, “In 1992 you were a freshman legislator and obviously you learned. I feel I have that same ability.”He said he brings 35 years of experience to bear in local public service. He has served as a school board president, on a fire board, and on several agricultural organizations during his career as a rancher.”I feel I could become a very effective senator in a very short period of time,” he said.In seeking state office, Fetcher plans to accept no special interest donations.”I feel I need to be an independent voice in your state Senate,” he told the Club 20 audience.By contrast, he said, Taylor has accepted $200,000 in special interest donations since his 1992 campaign.But Taylor said his vote in the Senate isn’t for sale.”I can stand here today and say that I am not ashamed of taking money because that’s really how the system works,” he said.He feels no special obligation to act on behalf of those who donate to him, he said.He also said individual donations are no different from those from special interest groups.”It’s all special interest money,” he said.Taylor and Fetcher also are divided on a state ballot measure that would mandate that some of Colorado’s energy come from renewable sources.”I am a strong supporter of renewables and will continue to be a supporter.However, I am not a supporter of mandates,” Taylor said.Xcel Energy already is a leader in seeking renewable energy sources, he said. And he believes hydropower should be pursued as a renewable energy source as well. But he said renewable energy mandates would mean an increase in the cost of electricity for Colorado’s consumers.But Fetcher said it’s possible that nothing will change without passage of the measure.”I think sometimes we need mandates to get off dead-center,” he said.Voters can decide for themselves whether they want to pay higher bills for renewable energy, he said.Taylor took Fetcher to task for casting a deciding vote on a reapportionment committee that took Grand County out of District 8.Grand holds the headwaters of the Colorado River, yet it now is part of a district that mostly covers the Eastern Slope, which historically has sought to divert Western Slope waters. Taylor accused Fetcher of “really selling us down the river on water.”Fetcher said he would have supported keeping Grand County on the Western Slope if he had had any choice, but a court ruled that no counties could be split between districts during reapportionment. At that point, the matter was out of his hands, and Grand County was forced to become “a sacrificial lamb,” he said.”I regret it,” he said.But Fetcher said he at least was able to keep Jackson County in District 8 under the reapportionment.Fetcher said he understands full well the importance of water to District 8.”I use water to make a living. It’s critical to me.”Taylor said he helped last year to defeat Referendum A, a state water initiative that Western Slope residents feared would result in water diversions to the Front Range. He also has worked on protecting the interests of basins of origin on water issues, he said.Fetcher criticized Taylor for voting to eliminate health care funding for low-income, pregnant woman. Taylor said the state financial crisis forced his hand.”Really everything ties to the budget,” he said.”We need to get some sort of compromise on TABOR and Amendment 23,” he said, referring respectively to a state measure that restricts government taxes and spending, and one requiring boosted funding for schools.Fetcher also called for reform of TABOR so state services that have been cut can be restored.Both Taylor and Fetcher support the continuation of enterprise zones, and the tax benefits associated them. Taylor said he would work through his position on the Legislative Audit Committee to preserve them.Fetcher called the enterprise zone program “a critical part of the economy of northwest Colorado.”It helps to bring new business to an area that can’t rely totally on tourism, he said.The two candidates agree on tourism’s importance to the region. Fetcher said he would like to explore ecotourism, and cultural and historical tourism, so the industry’s benefits can be spread more evenly across District 8.Taylor said he has been “probably one of the leading proponents of tourism” for the region.He serves on the Colorado Tourism Board and has carried legislation seeking to boost funding for tourism promotion, he said.Taylor said he has been effective as a lawmaker during his legislative career, passing 80 percent of the bills for which he was prime sponsor.He said he also brings common sense and small business experience to the job.Fetcher said he would focus as a senator on water, health care and education if elected.He said he’s running for the Senate for three reasons: his three daughters.”I’m running because I care about their future,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com

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