Steamboat Springs Although candidates Randy Baumgardner and Todd Hagenbuch agreed Tuesday that energy issues are a major concern for the next state representative from House District 57, they disagreed on points including support for renewable energy and the state ballot's Amendment 58.
Baumgardner acknowledged that renewable energy sources and alternative fuels need to be "explored," but he indicated that the Colorado should focus its support on its traditional energy economy.
"We need to develop these (sources), but right now, we have three - oil, gas, and coal - and that's what we need to depend on right now," Baumgardner said.
Hagenbuch advocated tax credits for the production of renewable energy, specifically citing solar, wind and small hydropower projects.
"We all know that we need to wean ourselves from oil, gas and conventional fuels," Hagenbuch said.
The candidates touched on energy and other issues during a Tuesday meeting of the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club, which hosted a luncheon candidate forum at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.
Baumgardner, a Republican, and Hagenbuch, a Democrat, are running for the District 57 seat being vacated by Rep. Al White, R-Hayden. White is term-limited in the state House of Representatives after serving four consecutive two-year terms, and he now is vying with democratic candidate Ken Brenner for the state Senate District 8 seat to be vacated by Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs.
The candidates also addressed the impacts oil and gas exploration and development have on Colorado communities, and agreed that more of the funds associated with Amendment 58 should be going back into the affected areas. The proposed amendment would remove a severance tax credit for oil and gas, increasing state tax collections by an estimated $321 million by 2010 - money that would be channeled primarily into college scholarships for state residents.
The severance tax funds long have been used for "pet projects" across the state, while communities must suffer huge infrastructure impacts from oil and gas development, Hagenbuch said.
"I'd like to see more of that money come back into these counties to work on their infrastructure, on their schools," Baumgardner said.
But Baumgardner questioned whether taxes are the best way to mitigate such negative impacts and said oil and gas companies simply will pass their tax costs on to consumers.
Baumgardner lives in Hot Sulphur Springs, where he operates the Baumgardner Cattle Company with his wife. He has lived in Grand County since 1994, and worked for the Colorado Department of Transportation for 11 years.
Hagenbuch, formerly the executive director of Historic Routt County, now works full time on his family's Routt County ranch. He lives in Phippsburg with his wife and son.