State Rep Al White, R-Winter Park, told the audience at a campaign forum Monday that if returned to the state Legislature for another term, he would propose a law that would impose fees on the tourism industry to raise $17 million to market Colorado as a tourism destination.
White's opponent for the District 57 seat, Sam Robinson of Parachute, said he supports requiring the tourism industry to raise its own marketing dollars, then matching them with state funds.
The two candidates were participating in a forum sponsored by the Steamboat Pilot & Today and KRMR radio, which will rebroadcast the debate at 5 p.m. Friday on FM 100.5 and 107.3.
Robinson and White answered questions along with the two candidates for Colorado Senate District 8, Democratic challenger Jay Fetcher and State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs.
White's remarks came in response to a question asking candidates whether they would support spending more money to promote tourism in the state.
White said that although he disagrees with people who oppose spending taxpayer dollars to market tourism, he set out deliberately to create a new plan that won't rely on taxes. Although he didn't give the details of the plan, he said he is optimistic about its future.
"I'm confident I can get it passed," White said.
Fetcher, a cattle rancher, said he thinks the tourism industry should look to the beef industry for the model on how to promote its product.
Fetcher said he agrees that tourism is an essential part of the economy in Senate District 8, but he would like to see the benefits of tourism spread to the smaller towns in the region as well as established resorts.
Taylor responded that although Colorado ranks high as a vacation destination, it ranks just 35th in marketing spending. He would like to see the state spending about $20 million annually to promote tourism. Every dollar invested in tourism marketing returns $200 to the economy, he added.
Asked what issue he would fight hardest to advance in the state Legislature if elected and why he's best suited for the job, Robinson said he is dismayed by the growing number of people in the district who cannot access health insurance.
"A new broom sweeps clean," Robinson said. He said that although he thinks the health insurance dilemma should be resolved at the federal level, it's time for the Legislature to fill the void.
"Is the floor dirty?" White said in response to Robinson's broom remark. "I think I've done a pretty good job."
White said he played a role in establishing Colorado's no-call list and introduced a bill that has allowed multi-jurisdictional housing authorities to establish funding mechanisms to help them in their efforts to develop affordable housing.
Taylor said his 12-year legislative track record couldn't be replaced by a freshman legislator. He said he would continue to work to resolve the state budget crisis and carry on his fight to establish basin of origin protection for the Western Slope's water.
Fetcher said his track record of nine years on the Steamboat Springs School Board and his role as a founder of the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust give credence to his goals of working to protect natural resources and promoting education issues -- kindergarten through college.