With the economic downturn putting a squeeze on the Colorado budget, Senate District 14 candidate Matt Fries says a bolstered economy — not higher taxes — is the best way to increase higher education funding.
Fries, the Republican contender for the seat, up against Democratic incumbent Bob Bacon, said the Colorado economy has been struggling for the last decade. He called Colorado higher education funding, which is ranks 48th in the nation, a “travesty” and said it results from the state’s economic problems.
He said the only way to solve the problem is to make “the economic pie” bigger so higher education funding can “have a bigger piece,” and that tax breaks, particularly for small businesses, which he said make up 80 percent of Colorado’s workforce, are the way to go about enlarging the pie.
Fries said if the economy is stronger as a whole, all elements of it will flourish.
But Bacon disagreed.
“He thinks answers are simple as lowering taxes,” Bacon said about his opponent.
Bacon said helping businesses by lowering taxes would be “a good idea . if we had ample money,” but the already tight state budget cannot afford to lose the income from taxes on business.
The senator said in his ten-year experience as a legislator, when money is tight, the first thing to get cut is higher education funding.
Bacon said that protecting higher education, particularly at CSU, is his priority because Colorado can use the intellectual capital to create jobs in new areas such as biotechnology and energy — and those jobs stimulate the economy.
Cutting taxes would endanger funding, Bacon said, and hurt Colorado’s academic future.
“Education is the key to providing the jobs and the citizens we need to have the kind of state we all want to live in,” Bacon said.
Fries said Bacon’s line of thinking creates problems, not solutions.
“That’s exactly the attitude that’s got us in the place we’re in,” Fries said about Bacon’s thoughts on lower taxes.
Fries said the government is spending too much money on issues that do not help solve Colorado’s economic woes, and as a long-time businessman, Fries said he believes he can fix it.
“I don’t think our government is near as efficient as it should be, and I don’t think our priorities are in the right place,” Fries said.
Seth Walter, the head of judicial affairs for ASCSU, said both candidates are qualified, despite drastic differences in their views.
“Bacon has proven himself time and again. He’s always there for students when we ask,” Walter said.
However, Walter said Fries brings a great deal of enthusiasm and new ideas to the local political realm.
“He brings excitement and a different way of seeing things,” Walter said.
Fries agreed that it is time for a change.
“I think it’s every citizen’s obligation to step up . when the time is right,” Fries said.
Senior Reporter Jim Sojourner can be reached at email@example.com.