Steamboat Springs Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, identified education and health care as two of the biggest problems facing the state in his keynote address to the Routt County Democrats during Saturday night's Jefferson/Jackson Dinner.
Colorado has fallen to 37th in the nation in public support for primary and secondary education, and either 49th or dead last in support for higher education, Romanoff said. In addition to not serving Colorado's youths, failing to support higher education is a horrible economic strategy, he said.
Next year's budget increases education funding by $53 million, which is a step in the right direction, Romanoff said.
"The bad news is, at the current rate, it'll be 2025 before we're at the national average of public support for education," Romanoff said. "And average isn't what we're aiming for."
In addition to overhauling Colorado's financial support of public education, Romanoff also spoke of "fixing" health care - letting politics fall away and letting the math speak for itself.
"We're going bankrupt," Romanoff said. "The system is broken. America's health care system is in need of a total overhaul, not just tinkering around the edges.
"What we need to do at the state legislature is hold down costs, cover more kids and adults and create more personal responsibility."
The Jefferson/Jackson Dinner is the premier annual event for the Routt County Democratic Party. Proceeds had not been totaled Saturday night, but Routt County Democratic Party Chairwoman Catherine Carson was pleased with how the live and silent auctions were going at the county Democrats' biggest annual fundraiser. More than 180 people were in attendance Saturday.
"In a little place like Routt County, that's a whole lot of energized Democrats," Carson said.
Local Democratic candidates Todd Hagenbuch and Ken Brenner also addressed attendees, as did the Jefferson/Jackson Dinner's auctioneer, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who is running unopposed for another term in the District 2 seat.
Hagenbuch, executive director of Historic Routt County and a Phippsburg resident, is running for House District 57, the seat to be vacated by Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, who is running for the District 8 state Senate seat. Republicans Randy Baumgartner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Dan Korkowski of Grand Lake also are running for the House seat, which represents Routt, Moffat, Grand, Garfield, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties.
Brenner, a former Steamboat Springs city councilman, is challenging White for Senate District 8, the seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Jack Talyor, R-Steamboat Springs.
In honor of moving the Jefferson/Jackson Dinner to the new Steamboat Springs Community Center, the Routt County Democrats went green with their biggest annual event. The new community center aims to become the first building in Northwest Colorado to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, signifying the building has been recognized as environmentally friendly by the U.S. Green Building Council.
"It's so great to have a waste-free event," Carson said. "We've got all these volunteers who said they'd be happy to wash dishes, and here they are."
The party also recognized Bob Steele as Volunteer of the Year, and honored Paul Bonnifield with the Lifetime Award.
Bonnifield described himself as fourth-generation Routt County native - and a third-generation Democrat.
Bonnifield is a long-time active member of the Routt County Democratic Party, having run for offices such as Routt County commissioner and for the state Legislature in 1984 and 1986, and serves as a precinct captain in South Routt.
"Within the party itself, you always end up doing a lot of odds and ends," he said.