Students and community members raised issues plaguing higher education funding to state legislators Saturday at a special town hall meeting at the Warner College of Natural Resources Building.
The opening topic was what the legislators called Colorado’s unmanageable incarceration rates, which take substantial funding from areas like higher education.
Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, expressed disappointment in the low turnout of students at the talk and the lack of discussion over the dilemma in providing sufficient higher education funding.
“I was ready to address more higher education issues,” Bacon said. “I was expecting and hoping students to discuss higher education.”
Bacon said higher education, transportation and health care are predominant issues he hopes Gov. Ritter will be more persistent in improving.
“I want (Ritter) to be a more forceful champion of (these) issues in our state,” Bacon said, after the meeting.
Ben Prytherch, co-chair of the Libertarian Party at CSU and a senior economics major, brought up the need for a more representative democracy so legislators can more easily help with issues like higher education funding.
Prytherch brought up his moderate opposition to TABOR, a 1992 citizen’s initiative that prevents legislators from raising taxes unless there is a vote by the people.
“I . don’t like the idea of making the legislators powerless to fix problems,” Prytherch said.
“TABOR keeps (legislators) from raising taxes, and college students are the ones that get squeezed.”
Prytherch said he thought Bacon did a good job in addressing the issues but said a lot of the discussion was focused on national issues.
One national issue was the war cost’s effect on states and citizens.
During the forum, Fort Collins resident Kevin Caffrey referenced an article in last week’s Denver Post discussing the newly estimated $3 trillion cost of the Iraq war, according to a Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
The cost is expected to end up between $5 trillion to $7 trillion after the U.S. incurs future costs.
Bacon said that because Colorado is no longer a “tax recipient state,” it receives $60 million less in federal income tax money.
“We are being cheated out of federal dollars,” Caffrey said. “The war is bankrupting this country morally and financially.”
Throughout the meeting, attendees brought up other issues focused on environmental health like global warming, the destructive Mountain Pine Beetle infestation and uranium mining.
Wes Rutt, the committee chair of Forest Biomass said more needs to be done to retrieve infested wood that increases the risk of wildfires, and infested wood can be used as biomass for energy sources to power buildings.
Rutt said the Mountain Pine Beetle has made its presence in Larimer County and more needs to be done by the government and citizens to halt its devastating impact on state forests.
“We need to do something to mitigate the damage the pine beetles are doing,” Rutt said. “(We need to) work on how to get those infested trees out of the forest.”
Senior Reporter Kaeli West can be reached at email@example.com