Congressman-elect Tipton stops in Steamboat to talk with commissioners |

Congressman-elect Tipton stops in Steamboat to talk with commissioners

Mike Lawrence

Scott Tipton, congressman-elect for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, met with the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon to talk about his priorities and how he plans to represent the citizens of Colorado once he gets to Washington, D.C.
John F. Russell

Scott Tipton, congressman-elect for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, talks with the Routt County Board of Commissioners on. Tuesday afternoonJohn F. Russell

— Scott Tipton has noticed at least one discernible change in his life since winning an election for Congress on the Western Slope: a significant increase in the number of phone calls.

"Half of Colorado has my cell phone number," he noted Tues­­day night, standing outside the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs after a visit with county officials.

But Tipton, a Republican state representative and business owner from Cortez, didn't say that despairingly. He said it as a simple observation of the changes that have come his way since defeating incumbent U.S. Rep. John Sala­zar, a Democrat from San Luis Valley, for a seat in Congress. Since winning that election about six weeks ago, Tipton has been to Washing­­ton, D.C., to get a feel for his upcoming job.

He said his experience in the state Capitol is helping him prepare for Congress.

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The learning curve is steep enough that, during Tuesday's open-ended discussion with the Routt County Board of Com­missioners and staff, Tipton offered few specifics about policy. He instead chose to hedge most of his comments until learning more about issues that are pressing the lame-duck session of the current Congress.

■ Extension of the Bush-era tax cuts?

Yes, in Tipton's view. Tipton focused much of his campaign on federal spending packages that Salazar supported, such as the economic stimulus early this year. But he said extending the tax cuts — which could have a two-year cost of $850 billion, as part of a larger package that could see a final vote in the U.S. Senate today — is vital for small businesses. 

"If we want to kill the economy further … continue to raise taxes," he said.

■ The Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants whose parents did not enter the country legally but who spend two years in college or the military?

"We have American children that are having a tough time," Tipton said, declining to say how he'd vote on the bill and clarifying that he wants to learn more about its potential costs to educational systems.

■ Gays in the military?

"We do have to take into serious consideration the polling," Tipton said, citing surveys of troops about don't ask, don't tell policies. He said troops and military leaders have cited concerns about potential disruptions from gay members of the military openly declaring their sexuality.

■ Health care reform?

"I think we will see some legislation coming up to repeal it," Tipton said, adding that such legislation could be accompanied by alternative legislation to "empower people to choose their own care."

County commissioners took the opportunity to lobby for issues with local impacts, such as continued Federal Aviation Administration funding, which has played a huge role in improvement projects at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

"At some point in time, the federal government's subsidy of our airports is going to start shrinking and shrinking," Commis­­sioner Doug Monger speculated.

Monger also noted that protection of water resources increasingly would be crucial.

"I think water will be a more-needed resource than anything else before we all get said and done here," Monger said.

Tipton listened to all of the concerns and said communication and accessibility will be a priority of his congressional service. He plans to open offices within Colorado's sweeping 3rd Congressional District shortly after taking the oath in Washington.

"Till you're sworn in, you aren't anything," he said.