Bennet column: Making progress for families in Garfield County
In March, I had the honor of meeting Autumn Rivera, a sixth-grade science teacher at Glenwood Springs Middle School and Colorado’s 2022 Teacher of the Year. I asked her why she decided to become a teacher. She beamed with pride as she shared one story after another about the difference her students make in the community — like raising money to protect Sweetwater Lake — and the tireless support of her fellow teachers.
In our conversation, Autumn mentioned something else that has stuck with me. She said many of her colleagues work two or three jobs so they can afford to live and teach in Glenwood Springs.
As a former school superintendent, I know we don’t pay our teachers nearly enough (we need to fix that). I also know Autumn’s story — of an economy where people work harder and harder to stay afloat, let alone get ahead — has become all too common.
Colorado has one of the most dynamic economies in the country. But wherever I go in our state, people tell me they are working incredibly hard, but no matter what they do, they can’t afford some combination of housing, health care, child care, or higher education. They can’t save for or afford a middle-class life, and rising costs from gas to groceries to rent make it even harder.
Their struggles reflect an economy that for the past 50 years has worked well for the wealthiest Americans, but poorly for everyone else.
Since arriving in the Senate, I’ve fought to build an economy that grows for everybody — not just the people at the very top. And, over the past 18 months, we’ve taken significant steps toward that goal, even though we have much further to go.
After the worst public health crisis in a century, we passed the American Rescue Plan, which gave communities along the Western Slope resources to tackle rising housing costs, fund law enforcement, and address our mental health crisis.
The law included my proposal to expand the Child Tax Credit, which provided working families the biggest tax cut in generations. Last year, virtually every family in Colorado received an average of $450 per month from the credit. It benefited 90% percent of Coloradans, cut child poverty almost in half, cut hunger by a quarter, and gave families a lifeline against inflation.
Then, we passed a bipartisan infrastructure law to fix our roads and bridges, improve our public transit, and help us compete with China. Colorado has already begun to use the funds to repair I-70 — a critical transportation corridor through Colorado — and $24 million is headed to Grand Junction, Rifle, and Glenwood Springs to improve rural public transit and bicycle, pedestrian, and parking infrastructure The infrastructure law also makes historic strides in broadband to connect every family, farmer, and small business to affordable, high-speed Internet, based on a bipartisan bill I wrote on the Western Slope with the help of the Delta-Montrose Electric Association.
This summer, we passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which addresses several urgent priorities for Colorado. We finally overcame Big Pharma and required Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of the American people. We capped the price of prescription drugs for Coloradans on Medicare to $2,000 a year and the price of insulin to $35 a month.
And as climate change continues to ravage our state, we made the largest investment to fight climate change in U.S. history, with historic steps to accelerate clean energy development, increase domestic manufacturing for our solar and wind industries, and promote more efficient homes, factories and transport.
Between these two bills, I fought to secure $10 billion for forest and watershed health. Both laws represent overdue steps to address our urgent challenges as a nation and build an economy that grows for everybody, not just those at the very top.
The choice in this election is whether we will move forward and build on the historic progress we’ve made, or go back to the same failed policies.
The next generation of Coloradans expects us to hand them a future defined by more opportunity, not less. A future where teachers don’t have to work two or three jobs to live where they work; where families aren’t drowning in rising costs; hard work translates into security and dignity; and our economy works for everyone, not only the wealthiest few.
We have to keep moving forward. That’s why I am running for re-election, and I’d be honored to have your support.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is running for re-election this fall.
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