Imagining and believing in a great Colorado does not seem an easy task, especially after serving eight-plus years in the Legislature and knowing firsthand what it takes to get something done. As I prepare to leave the Senate, however, I am optimistic about Colorado because the work ahead can be accomplished — through bipartisan, open-minded approaches. Colorado’s future will and must depend on bipartisanship. We have much more in common than that which divides us.
A great Colorado must protect, conserve and preserve its water, savor its public lands, honor its rural areas and revamp TABOR.
This summer, I traveled to the Yampa Valley, the San Luis Valley and the North Fork Valley and found they all have a common concern: water. The Colorado River basins must be supported, and the Colorado Water Plan must continue to be enhanced and strongly supported financially to hold true not only to our rivers, but also to Colorado’s future.
A third-generation rancher-farmer told me his operation would not survive in the years ahead because of the lack of water and the cost of irrigating his small farm. At a farm outside Alamosa that grows grains to supply distillers and brewers, the operators worry that their water supply will be affected by development needs in metro areas.
Many rural Coloradans feel strained by the needs of urban areas. Water is not the only concern distinguishing the two, however. Colorado is great because of rural and urban communities, but the rural areas get far less recognition and support. Rural Colorado has a small tax base, fewer teachers with adequate salaries, inadequate broadband services, roads and transportation issues, and communities losing jobs and longtime businesses.
Colorado’s public lands must be left to stand as they always have: a gift to the people. Drill, but not on public lands. Colorado cannot even be imagined as a great Colorado if the lands that have inspired our interest in the outdoors, the signing of the Wilderness Act, and the establishment of so many national parks and monuments are sold or damaged to the extent that the land cannot be what it was. The authentic experience with nature provided to us all through these lands provides the “soul” of who we are as Coloradans.
Our state’s members of Congress must join in bipartisan friendship to produce programs in partnership with the state to enhance the care of our public lands. Thousands of people are hiking the trails, fishing our streams and hunting. But there must be additional help to preserve these areas. Our national leaders could join to build a state-federal work program, through which people can be paid for preserving the trails and sustaining operations.
Last but not least, Colorado can be greater with better income. The state must be able to make and keep more revenue. The people must remove most of TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Keep the part that requires the people to vote whether they support a tax increase. But take away the rest.
Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat representing Senate District 34, is former state Senate minority leader.