Election Guide 2014: Diane Mitsch Bush | SteamboatToday.com

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Election Guide 2014: Diane Mitsch Bush

Diane Mitsch Bush

Occupation: State representative, Colorado House District 26 — Eagle County and Routt County, 2013 to 2014; member, House Transportation and Energy Committee, House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, Interim Joint House/Senate Water Resources Review Committee and Interim Joint House/Senate Transportation Legislation Review Committee; social science research/teaching faculty at University of Arizona, Colorado State University and Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs, totaling 26 years. At CSU, I earned tenure with a unanimous vote and published widely in peer-reviewed social science journals. I was twice named CMC faculty of the year.

Previous political experience: Routt County commissioner, District 3, elected in 2006, served 2007 to 2010, re-elected in 2010, served 2011 to 2012; CDOT Northwest Transportation Planning Regional Commission (Routt, Moffat, Jackson, Grand and Rio Blanco counties) 2007 vice chair, 2008-2012 chair; 2007 to 2012 representative for NW Transportation Planning Regional Commission at CDOT Statewide Transportation Advisory Committee; selected community service in Routt County included Vision2020 (1993 to 1994), Routt County Planning Commission (1996 to 2006), Bike Town USA Committee (2009 to 2012) and chair of the LiveWell Northwest Colorado Steering Committee (2010 to 2012).

Q. What do you see as the two most important issues facing the state of Colorado, and how would you deal with these issues for the benefit of your Routt County constituents?

A. 1. Continue facilitating a vibrant, robust economy: Business growth and job creation rely on a healthy environment, strong community fabric, quality education for all, specific job-skills training and modern, well-maintained infrastructure. Our lean, effective government works with businesses to keep the playing field level, competitive and fair. I will continue to review regulations, ferreting out unnecessary red tape that does not contribute to public safety, health or environment. Two of my 2014 bills reduced red tape while still protecting community values, responsible businesses, public safety and our environment. I co-sponsored bills to help businesses prosper: job incentive tax credits, lowering the business personal property tax rate, technical assistance, targeted job training internships, small business development centers and child care.

2. Continue investing in 21st-century infrastructure: I cosponsored infrastructure bills and will continue to work diligently on transportation, broadband and rural water/wastewater infrastructure. I am now working with stakeholders on I-70 solutions.

Q. What is your opinion on the recent Environmental Protection Agency rulings on coal use?

A. Two EPA rules — one current and one pending — are at issue.

1. Current rules on health hazards of SO2-Mercury. Our low-sulfur, low-mercury local coal helps meet these health requirements, as does Hayden Station, one of the cleanest-burning power plants anywhere.

2. Pending rule on greenhouse-gas emissions. If adopted by EPA, the Colorado Legislature will approve a State Implementation Plan. Colorado must get credit in the final EPA rule for our cleaner, high-BTU coal and existing efforts by businesses and governments to lower GHG. Oxbow Coal Mine uses coal mine methane, a waste product, for generating electricity. Others use CleanCoal technologies, alternative fuels, conservation, and efficiencies to lower GHG. How we adapt to climate change will determine our children's future. Our decisions should be based on scientific data: on human health, water quality/supply, forest health, snowpack, jobs in all industries (including coal and power), energy market volatility and consumer costs.

Q. How would you work to protect Colorado's water supply, and in particular, how would you protect the Yampa River?

A. I have worked across the aisle, during regular Session Committee and in Interim Water Committee, co-sponsoring bills to facilitate agricultural, municipal and industrial efficiency/conservation alternatives and to protect in-stream flows and water rights.

Protecting Western Slope water from new trans-mountain diversions is critical for our economy (agriculture, tourism and energy), habitat protection and quality of life.

Our Yampa basin is unique in Colorado and the West because it is a relatively free-flowing basin, with only very small dams and no TMDs. Keeping the Yampa flowing in its basin of origin is key to our 1922 Colorado Compact legal obligations. Data show no benefit to our state as a whole from new TMDs. Rather, the costs to jobs and local industries and statewide industries far outweigh any benefits. This is an important message that I will continue to spread and stand up for as your representative.

Q. What ideas do you have for balancing the state budget?

A. Our budget is required by law to be balanced, and under Article X-Section 20-TABOR, only the voters have the authority to raise taxes. No elected official in Colorado can raise anyone's taxes. Thus, we must carefully weigh competing needs to develop lean budgets that fund much-needed programs in a fiscally responsible way. I am proud to have worked on two balanced budgets that invest in infrastructure, p-20 education, job-creation tax credits, lowering the business personal property tax, tourism-creative industries, support for vulnerable citizens, environmental protection, energy and water efficiency rebates, rural water/wastewater projects, wildfire prevention and veterans' assistance, while increasing our reserves over 30 percent. The argument that business growth alone will increase our revenues ignores a fundamental requirement in TABOR: when our economy grows, TABOR requires that we refund taxes when a threshold is reached, so revenue can't grow with the economy. This "ratcheting-effect" is particularly pernicious after a recession.

Q. Do you think changes need to be made to state's recreational marijuana law? If so, what changes?

A. Changes may be needed. Since Amendment 64 went into effect in January, I have voted to keep marijuana from kids, criminals, cartels and for a Colorado solution to banking. I am investigating whether the voters' 2012 decision has led to: 1) increased youth marijuana use; 2) increased driving accidents under the influence of drugs; or 3) diversion from the regulated market to the black market. I'm talking to law enforcement and our schools to see if there are any unexpected or unfunded costs associated with recreational use. If identified, I would push to direct tax revenue collected by the state back to our communities so we do not face any unfunded mandates. We still await a federal solution to the banking problem. We must close loopholes in our public safety regulations that may allow this legalized product into the black market. This was not the voters' or our communities' intent.

Q. What qualifications, experience or education do you possess that uniquely qualify you to hold this office?

A. With 30-plus years' experience as a volunteer public servant, two terms as your Routt County commissioner and now as your representative at the Capitol, I have a record of bringing people together to form effective, fiscally responsible solutions and developing a consensus that works for all. All my bills passed with bipartisan support. I have helped develop equitable, balanced budgets (six at the county, two at the Capitol) that increase reserves while weighing diverse funding needs. From my long background and experience as a social scientist, I know how to read data, what data to ask staff for and how to apply those data to policy issues. I am known at the Capitol for always doing my homework and asking tough questions. I listen to you, and I respond to you. I vote based on what the majority of my constituents tell me and on the evidence, not a party line.