In the News...
Senator Schwartz Tells Rotary Diversity Helps Economy
Delta County Independent
“My hat is off to Paonia Rotary for all the good work you have done and are doing,” Sen. Gail Schwartz began in her introduction to the Paonia Rotary Club on Oct. 22. She acknowledged the work the Rotarians are doing with the Paonia Food Bank and Lunch Bag Program at local schools to make sure people in the community have the food they need during a difficult economy.
Sen. Schwartz supports local food going to local schools. She is working with Homestead Market in Paonia to provide meat to Western State College. An additional piece of equipment is needed for their meat production process. “Agriculture is a very strong economic driver, and we have such high quality food produced. It is an important part of our economy along with our natural resources,” said Sen. Schwartz, who serves 11 counties in Colorado from Basalt to the New Mexico border.
She shared that per capita, Delta County has one of the highest rates of job loss in the state. Sen. Schwartz said it is of great concern to her. She is working with the governor’s office, the Department of Labor and the Office of Economic Development on how to provide resources to the county to rebuild the work force and create new job opportunities. “Colorado is a state of small businesses. Eighty-five percent of our businesses employ 15 people or less,” she shared. She has found that Colorado’s diversity leads to one of the more resilient economies in the nation. The new energy economy will attract jobs. Colorado is a center for new technologies and is in a good position to emerge sooner than others from the recession.
Sen. Schwartz is working with the State Forester Office to attract resources. On Oct. 14 she visited the timber mills in Delta and Hotchkiss. She is looking at how to keep a viable timber industry while there are 3 million acres of beetle kill forests. “It’s important that we stabilize our timber industry . . . this is a great resource,” Sen. Schwartz said. She is waiting to hear from the State Forester about a significant grant for the timber mills.
While the economic downturn is a crisis, Sen. Schwartz believes a crisis “is a terrible thing to waste.” The Credit Reserve Program was created through legislation last year, and will support small businesses. The Colorado Housing Finance Authority has put aside $50 million to back up loans so businesses will have capital.
Delta-Montrose Technical College has done exactly what it should be doing as a training center for job skills needed at the coal mines and hopefully for renewable energy. It is forecast by the Governor’s Energy Office that 200,000 new jobs in the next 20 years will be created in solar, wind, geothermal and biomass industries.
She is looking at how to strengthen coal and natural gas for the local markets. “What we are wanting to do is push for a distribution system and retooling some of our fleets and utilizing natural gas in conjunction with coal,” she said. The senator wants natural gas to be used more in the state rather than move it out-of-state. Colorado has a rate of severance tax that is one-half what it is in Wyoming and New Mexico and one-third of Montana’s tax. She is for using severance dollars wisely by investing in higher education because it represents our future.
The Colorado budget of $7.4 billion last year must be cut to $6.2 billion. That cut is equal to the entire budgets for higher education and corrections. “We are third to last in our rate of taxation as a state,” she noted. “It’s going to be a tough year. A lot of people have suggestions on what not to tax, but we need to have a constructive conversation about how to do it differently,” she said.
Sen. Schwartz wants to make sure as we make it through the economy of the next couple of years, that there is not harm done to those on the margins. She is proud of the services offered by the state even with the budget constraints.