GRAND JUNCTION – Voters will be vying for ringside seats at the Club 20 debate Saturday when 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and his challenger State Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo) duke it out over who can best represent constituents and revive the flailing economy.
Pace of Pueblo claims he’s “like you,” an average, struggling guy who can build bipartisan support to cure economic ills – and Tipton of Cortez is insensitive to the needs of rural Coloradans.
Tipton scoffs that Pace is so out of touch that the Democrat lawmaker had no pangs of guilt in pushing more than $1.6 billion in new taxes on families trying to survive.
Pace cites Tipton’s vote for the Republican “Path to Prosperity” budget crafted by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the running mate of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The Ryan framework sought to rein in runaway federal entitmement spending and reform key programs.
“The Tipton-Ryan Budget goes against Colorado priorities, and I intend to work, as I did in the state House, in a bipartisan fashion to really address the deficit concerns this country faces,” asserted Pace during a press conference call.
Tipton is seeking another two-year congressional term after serving in the state legislature in 2009-2010 when Democrats held the power – controlling both chambers under Gov. Bill Ritter.
Pace, who served in the legislature through this year, said he’ll gladly compare his voting record to Tipton’s.
The Pueblo Democrat defended his low ratings from the Colorado Conservative Union of Taxpayers saying the anti-tax group is radical. According to the 2009 CUT ratings, Pace received 3.3 percent and Tipton earned 73.3 percent.
Tipton threw down the bring-it-on gauntlet this week.
“We should compare each candidate’s record on raising taxes. It’s a conversation voters deserve to hear,” declared Tipton. “There is a great divide between Sal Pace’s rhetoric and record when it comes to raising taxes.”
Tipton says Pace’s claims that the Pueblo Democrat has protected families and small businesses are false. While the two men served in the state legislature Pace voted for – and Tipton voted against – tax hikes on car registrations, agricultural products, sodas and candy, internet sales, direct mail, and energy used for manufacturing. Pace later claimed he voted for the energy tax hike by mistake.
Pace also supported rolling back property tax credits for seniors and a new hospital tax – measures Tipton opposed.
These issues will be hotly debated but Pace may also be put on the ropes to defend his actions to promote wind and solar energy while opposing coal, oil and gas development on the Western Slope.
Tipton, on the other hand, may be forced to defend his change of heart – he voted against green energy incentives in the state legislature, but has been a supporter of renewable energy tax credits in Congress.
Vestas Wind Energy Plant laid off 90 employees in Pueblo and 30 workers in Brighton. The company, which announced 2,335 layoffs at its plants primarily in Europe and China in January, said that product demand is down because of uncertainty in the market.
The company said the “uncertainty” is caused by growing opposition in Congress to renewing a $12 billion tax credit to wind production companies. The tax credit is part of a $205 billion “tax extenders” package that passed the Senate Finance Committee in August.
A couple of weeks before the Vestas layoffs, Obama lauded the wind industry in Colorado, which reportedly supports 5,000 jobs, during a campaign stop in Pueblo.
“Without those tax credits, 37,000 American jobs, including potentially hundreds of jobs right here inPueblo, would be at risk,” declared Obama. He said it’s time to shift subsidies from the oil industry to the “clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”
Taking a cue from Obama, Pace is hammering Tipton on his failure to support tax credits for the industry. But, Tipton said he supports renewing the $12 billion wind energy credit that expires in December.
“Do you want to cut it off when they’re on the cusp of being where we want them to be and to be able to create jobs and to be able to part of the energy solution?” Tipton asked Climate Progress, and answered, “No, I don’t think we do.”