McInnis vows to roll back Ritter’s programs |

McInnis vows to roll back Ritter’s programs

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Scott McInnis says this year’s gubernatorial election is all about Colorado jobs. To create them, he’s promising to roll back Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s state fees for individuals and to restore business tax exemptions.

“Car fees should go to a vote of the people. Elimination of tax exemptions, I’d roll back every one of them. Freezing the mill levy – that’s a tax increase that should have gone to the voters,” McInnis said in an interview with The Associated Press.

But first the former U.S. representative must defeat Dan Maes in the Aug. 10 GOP primary.

Maes, an Evergreen businessman, edged McInnis at the GOP state assembly in May with the support of tea party activists wary of McInnis’ Washington background. They claim McInnis flip-flopped on abortion and didn’t do enough to rein in government spending during his years in Washington.

McInnis said he was pro-choice when he went to Congress in 1993, representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. He had signed on as an advisory board member of a group called Republicans for Choice, but he later changed his views.

McInnis also said he pushed for frugality in Congress much the way he did in his personal life. He said he slept on a futon in his congressional office and ate Cheerios out of a box to save time and money.

The six-term former congressman believes Colorado can work its way out of the recession by reducing government regulation and cutting state spending.

According to the latest financial forecasts, Colorado’s next governor will be forced to cut $175 million next year and nearly $1 billion the year after that from a general fund of $7.7 billion. McInnis said he’s confident he can do it without compromising essential state services.

“Of course you can do it. … I know what I’m getting into,” he said. “I’m not raising taxes. That’s not the answer.”

University of Colorado economist Richard Wobbekind on Wednesday said he expects Colorado to lose more than 20,000 jobs this year. Denver’s Center for Business and Economic Forecasting predicts a loss of 30,000 jobs.

McInnis said many of those jobs were tied to an energy industry affected by tighter regulations enacted under Ritter and that they can be restored by revising those rules.

Ritter froze mill levies to pay for public schools. He also increased vehicle fees to pay for roads and eliminated a series of business tax exemptions as he and lawmakers struggled to balance the budget.

The GOP primary winner will face Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who’s unopposed on the Democratic side. McInnis enjoys a substantial fundraising advantage over Maes – $1.8 million to $119,000 in the quarter ending June 1 – and says he is the best candidate to defeat Hickenlooper.

McInnis argued Hickenlooper didn’t oppose Ritter’s fee hikes. He also took Hickenlooper to task for not opposing the rules for oil and gas drilling, which some say hinder energy and jobs production. Others blame the industry’s troubles on the economy.

Hickenlooper, McInnis said, “never spoke up when the energy rules were being put in place. He had every opportunity as one of the most powerful Democrats in Colorado to say this is an overreach.

“On all these issues, he’s going to go down the same path” as Ritter, McInnis said.

Hickenlooper has said he can balance the budget by finding efficiencies, like he did in the mayor’s office, where he cut city employment by 5 percent.

McInnis, who’s been endorsed by GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, said he wants to find a new funding model for Colorado’s troubled higher education system. He also says he’ll make government more efficient by taking advantage of the 3,500 appointments the new governor gets to make by finding experts in their fields. Hickenlooper said he wants to appoint people who can craft reasonable compromises.

In Washington, the West Slope rancher sponsored legislation designating wilderness areas. He wrote the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which allowed thinning of trees and eased environmental regulations to protect communities after the 2002 Hayman Fire destroyed 138,000 acres and 133 homes.

His Washington career followed five years in the state House of Representatives where he sponsored bills increasing penalties for drug dealers and allowing the Colorado National Guard to enforce drug laws.

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