By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)– For the first time, many of the people who want to be Colorado’s next governor stood on the same stage together.
Four Republicans and four Democrats attended a forum hosted by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry — the state’s Chamber of Commerce.
The event drew nearly 500 people and CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd moderated the event.
The candidates weighed in on whether a tax hike is needed for transportation. Democrat Donna Lynn, the current lieutenant governor, supports it, “We need to ask the voters are you willing to put more money into the system.”
Republican Doug Robinson, a businessman, disagrees, “We have the money. We need to focus it.”
The candidates also talked about their plans for increasing affordable housing. Democrat Mike Johnston, a former state senator and educator, suggested more public-private partnerships, “In this partnership the state would offer land to the property developer at 10 percent of the market rate with the agreement that you could then make a development on that land with a 30 or 50 year lease.”
Republican Victor Mitchell, a former state lawmaker and businessman, said cutting red tape would help, “My plan is to get rid of about 100 pages of rules and regulations and truly be the next CEO of the state.”
The candidates were also asked about what they would do to shore up PERA – the public employee pension system. It has a $35 billion shortfall.
Republican Walker Stapleton, the current State Treasurer, said you can’t care about teachers without caring about this system, “One of the reform measures in front of the legislature would make it so each school district would have to take 25 cents of a teacher’s salary and put it into a massively bankrupt system.”
On whether the state should enact a 2,500 foot setback for oil and gas drilling, all eight candidates say “no.”
Republican Cynthia Coffman, the current Attorney General, was adamant, “To me it is an absolute non-starter.”
Democrat Noel Ginsburg says setbacks will vary, “There isn’t an answer that can be answered specifically whether it’s a thousand or two-thousand because the grey area is what is safe for the community.”
The candidates disagreed on how much control local governments should have over fracking. Johnston says a statewide framework is necessary but Democrat Jared Polis, Congressman of the 2nd Congressional District, is in favor of more local control, “I would love to provide working with legislature more certainty abound the legal parameters of local control.”
Democrat Cary Kennedy, former State Treasurer, was invited but declined to attend the forum.
Republican Tom Tancredo, former Congressman for the 6th Congressional District, had planned to be there but came down with the flu. The primary elections to determine who makes the November ballot are less than five months away.