The more critical questioning the better

Needless to say, interviews are much more fun and useful if reporters try to correct candidates, repeatedly if necessary, if they have their facts mixed up.

So you have to appreciate Cynthia Hessin’s discussion with Scott McInnis on a special edition of Colorado State of Mind March 11. (Colorado State of Mind airs Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Rocky Mountain PBS, Channel 6.)

On the show, McInnis said that Colorado’s economy is in bad shape and that the “wrong thing to do” is raise taxes. He said he opposed the “tax increases” passed this session by the lawmakers. Hessin made McInnis explain why he thought they were “tax increases.”

Hessin (at 13:50): To be clear, as a matter of procedure, these are lifting exemptions that these companies had, as opposed to imposing new taxes.

McInnis: No, these are new taxes. Now anytime you move money from the private marketplace to the government, that’s a tax increase.

Hessin: So you’re talking movement of money.

McInnis: They paint a pretty face on it. They like to say, well, it’s a loophole. We’re closing a loophole. Or we’re taxing the rich.

Hessin: By letter of law, that is what they’re doing, right?

McInnis: No it’s not. The way you define it, I think they are all tax increases. They are taking jobs out of the private marketplace to protect jobs in government. That’s exactly what’s happening with those 13 bills.

Hessin’s multiple follow-up not only makes for an interesting interview, but it also forced McInnis to clarify his position on the matter. In fact, Hessin was on solid ground here in describing the legislature’s actions as “lifting exemptions” rather than imposing “new taxes.” That is, if you accept a related decision by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Earlier in this interview, however, Hessin could have pressed McInnis harder, and also had the facts on her side.

McInnis said Colorado’s new oil-and-gas regulations have wounded Colorado’s economy, resulting in “thousands of jobs” leaving the state. He said Colorado’s oil-and-gas jobs moved to Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming, and Kentucky.

McInnis said: “The impact [of the oil and gas regulations] to the state as a whole was severe. We’ve lost a lot of jobs. We’ve lost thousands of jobs. These are 80,000-dollar-a-year jobs. The natural gas companies have left in groves. Now, you still have Encana and Williams and others that still have intense capital investment in the ground.  If you went to Grand Junction right now, you’d see 20 rigs sitting in storage yards. I mean, it’s had a huge impact.”

It’s now well-established that Colorado’s new oil-and-gas regulations cannot be blamed any job losses, much less “thousands of jobs,” as McInnis asserts, even though the oil industry has been making this assertion since before the regulations were passed. Hessin should have called McInnis on this.

We’ll be seeing more candidate interviews as the election gets closer…-and candidate profiles. The more critical questioning and reporting the better.

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