Business for Breakfast, Cynthia Coffman, February 20, 2018

Station:   KDMT, 1690 AM

Guests:    Coffman, Cynthia


Date:        Feburary 20, 2018

Topics:     Medicaid expansion, Obamacare, Transit, Roads & Bridges, Infrastructure, Education Funding, Healthcare Costs, Housing Affordability, Density,

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HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER: [00:00:00] […] And we are back live in studio with Attorney General for the great state of Colorado, Cynthia Coffman. She is a Republican candidate for governor, and once again, here in studio. It’s good to have you here, Attorney General Coffman.


HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER: [00:00:15] So let’s talk about some of the key issues. We last left on the issue of health care, and you talk about addressing the costs and some states doing some innovative things. A lot of times we look at it and say, “Oh, it’s the federal government! They failed to repeal and replace Obamacare!” Although they did get rid of the individual mandate, which is significant for many Americans and Coloradans across this state and country. And so when we look at the health care issue, what can be done at the state level?

COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL AND GOP CANDIDATE FOR COLORADO GOVERNOR, CYNTHIA COFFMAN: [00:00:44] There are things that the governor can do with the General Assembly. That’s a partnership. And it’s important to work together on policy issues. But Coloradans need some relief from the high costs of care. We saw beginning step on that last year in the legislature with funding of rural hospitals. And I tell you, folks so appreciate the fact that their hospitals can be kept open in rural areas. Those are job drivers, In some communities, that’s the major employer. And it also allows people to get health care close to home. And that’s what we have to make sure that we do. I’m a little bit concerned because I have seen that in Washington they’re discussing cutting money for community health centers, and that’s a really important — that community health centers are really an important part of the network of healthcare that we have. So, if that does happen, if there’s less federal money for those local health care centers, then we will have to pick that up at the state level. We’ll have to juggle, I think, budgets. And then we have Medicaid, which — my goodness! — is a topic we could spend a long time on. But it has grown significantly with the Medicaid expansion that Governor Hickenlooper has done under the Affordable Care Act, and we now have many more people — hundreds of thousands of more people — to serve on the Medicaid rolls in Colorado. Federal Government paid for that the first two years. Now, that burden is going to begin shifting incrementally to the state. And we have to prepare for that. It will be a larger portion of our state budget. So, there’s a lot involved with health care. It is a major priority for me in my run for governor and will be in my administration.

SENGENBERGER: [00:02:28] Are we stuck with Medicaid expansion? Is there any way out?

COFFMAN: [00:02:32] No. The Federal Government was was very clear about this. If states chose to expand the Medicaid rolls then they were then bound to take care of those folks who had signed up for Medicaid. So, we can’t change that. We just have to–.

SENGENBERGER: [00:02:47] Can we stop the growth?

COFFMAN: [00:02:47] [chuckles] Can we stop the growth?

SENGENBERGER: [00:02:48] Yeah.

COFFMAN: [00:02:48] We can. Yes. There are things we can do at this point to moderate how many people are on Medicaid going forward. But really, the large growt, the bump that we have seen in the last two years is there to stay.

SENGENBERGER: [00:03:06] We’re stuck with that, unfortunately, — in my my book — in terms of — not the people. It’s painful to kick people off, of course. So I don’t mean to stress that point, but to say that we’re stuck with an error program like the Obamacare law that has really put tremendous cost burdens on the states.

COFFMAN: [00:03:25] It has. And I think we’re just going to begin to see that. And as governor, that’s something that I will need to to manage, and manage people’s expectations about that. Because if we’re going to take care of more people — which sounds like a great thing and I like the concept of it — we have to pinch pennies elsewhere in the budget.

SENGENBERGER: [00:03:46] Again, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman [is] our guest, candidate for governor. Let’s talk about another issue that we touched on before that’s very important which is transportation. I mean, this issue — we’re driving on the roads today. Everybody’s thinking about transportation, in that regard. But when we talk about traveling across the state, when we talk about roads and bridges, and also the idea of transit, where do you think we should be prioritizing things? And are you supportive of issues like bonding, raising taxes? What do you want to do in terms of addressing transportation?

COFFMAN: [00:04:15] I think this governor has failed us in terms of prioritizing the road construction and bridge repair and construction. And it’s time that we catch up, because our growth has exceeded — obviously — and the Front Range exceeded the capacity of our roads to be able to hold all those cars and trucks. And to get commerce moving across the state in the rural areas, it’s farm to market roads that we’re concerned about, the condition of those roads. It’s time to put money into that infrastructure. Certainly, it is important to have multimodal transportation. We need buses. We need light rail. Those are important projects. But we also need efforts to get people to use that form of transportation. And when I see trains running in the evening and there’s two people on them, I think this is not an economical way to move people, who, in Colorado, enjoy driving their cars. And we are proud of the fact that we are independent and we get behind the wheel and we go where we want to go when we want to go. So it’s a mindset shift, I think — It is for me — to take public transportation. And then in terms of how we fund the roads and bridge projects that we have prioritized, CDOT has $9 billion worth of projects on their Tier I list. And those are all the things that give you headaches as commuters and people driving around the state. Bonding seems like a good possibility for us. And the legislature is debating several different bills right now and looking at how much money can be found in the existing budget. We have money as a result of the Trump Tax Cut and Jobs Act — that we were not expecting to have — that can go toward transportation.

SENGENBERGER: [00:06:09] So, when you talk about trying to maybe get people to use transit, is that through more advertising programs, promotion? I mean, do you have any thoughts on that?

COFFMAN: [00:06:19] I think we need to look at how other states and cities have done this. When I lived in Atlanta, it was a way of life. People took the train. I took the train downtown to law school when I was going to school there. And it was a part of the culture. But it takes time to get folks to that point. And I think people who are — look at the people in my office who commute every day. And a lot of those folks take Bustang, they take the train. So, for people who work downtown it’s a great thing. And I think we just have to promote to employees and employers that this is the way to go to get their folks moving around the state and to protect both our roads and our environment.

SENGENBERGER: [00:07:04] So, and one more question on the transportation issue, Attorney General Coffman, is: When it comes to prioritizing the funding, what should we be emphasizing — roads and bridges, or transit?

COFFMAN: [00:07:16] I think we need to emphasize roads and bridges. That has been neglected. And it’s time that we turned our attention toward those projects.

SENGENBERGER: [00:07:25] And, but especially rural communities and mountain communities, they don’t really have the same kind of transit, in this way?

COFFMAN: [00:07:31] No. And folks in Denver need to think about that. We need to think outside the Front Range. Get in your car and go visit some of those rural communities. Spend some money, and see what the issues [are] that they’re dealing with.

SENGENBERGER: [00:07:44] We’re seeing a strong economy right now across the country and it’s certainly going to be boosted by the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that you mentioned. Today’s markets notwithstanding; we’re down 167 points on the Dow, the Nasdaq up 7, t The S&P500 down 13 points at this moment. But we’ve seen some tremendous growth in wealth for people. We’ve seen job creation and so forth. But there is also this question for Colorado of attracting business to the state. What is it that you think really needs to be done to make an environment that brings people to Colorado?

COFFMAN: [00:08:20] Well, I think we’re fortunate. I think we already have an environment that attracts business. It is the natural resources and the recreational opportunities we have. It’s the quality of life. And unfortunately, that’s a double-edged sword. Because people want to come here for the quality of life, those of us who live here want to preserve the quality of life and don’t care to be overrun by newcomers on our roads. And so it’s that constant tension between growth and having the quality of life that you want. And that’s always a balance. I think that it’s important to continue to attract business to the state, to have a diverse economy, because we do know — and having a business program, I’m sure you’ve researched this — that there is likely to be an economic downturn somewhere between 2020 and 2013 [sic]. And the state is really not prepared for that. We don’t have the type of savings that we need to be able to weather an economic downturn. But I think that is something to immediately start looking at and preparing for. When we’re in the great — the good days, when the economy is strong like it is now, it’s tempting to just focus on the positive. But we also need to do some long term planning for the eventuality of another recession.

SENGENBERGER: [00:09:39] And so when it comes to bringing business to Colorado, it would seem that one of the key issues is regulation, and trying to keep that burden off of the businesses that come into the state. Because the more regulation you have, the less appetizing it is for businesses. So, what should we be looking at as far as the regulatory environment?

COFFMAN: [00:09:59] You know, this is something that I hear about from folks, no matter what size business they’re in — small, medium, large. They all ask for less regulation by the government. And I think that the legislature has to keep in mind, when they pass bills and they give state agencies regulatory authority, just how much power we are vesting in the executive branch rather than the legislative branch that represents the people. So when people complain about too much regulation, we have to take a step back and say, “Let’s not give that power to the executive, to people who are not elected officials.” Colorado has a plethora — one of my favorite words — of regulation. And there are places, certainly, where we can trim it down. We have environmental regulations, for example, that go beyond just protecting the environment and they hamper and stifle the growth of business and business’s appetite for investing in Colorado. And that’s where we reach a critical juncture. When you have businesses saying, “Well, I’m not sure I want to come to Colorado because of your regulatory environment,” then we have a problem. And it’s time to reflect on it and to say, “What do we do to make it easier to build houses, to build roads, and to have businesses invest in this economy?” And know, and have consistency — be able to expect — know what to expect in terms of regulatory environment.

SENGENBERGER: [00:11:34] You know, one thing that has been bandied about for many years at the state and federal level is, “Let’s freeze regulations were they’re at. Let’s look at trying to prevent new regulations from being added.” You know, obviously, you can’t do that entirely for everything. But it seems to me to be an appetizing idea.

COFFMAN: [00:11:53] It sounds good. I think more than freezing regulation, though, we need to look a little bit retroactively and say, “What have we put in place that isn’t working.

SENGENBERGER: [00:12:04] Right.

COFFMAN: [00:12:04] And I really like the idea of asking the people who are — who are licensed, who are regulated, who have to go through this process in order to do business, and say, “What do we have on the books that truly doesn’t further a purpose?” And let’s have that conversation, rather than saying freezing regulation, going forward.

SENGENBERGER: [00:12:30] Yeah. I would think if you if you freeze regulations and then examine what you can get rid of it’s a good — it’s a good combination. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is our guest, live, here in studio. She’s a Republican candidate for governor. Let’s talk about affordable housing. I mean, this is an issue — we’ve talked about it a bunch on this program. In terms of the idea of affordable or attainable housing, — however you wanna use the phrase — how would you define affordable, first of all? This is an interesting question. And then second of all, how might we want to address, in your mind, this crucial issue when we have so many homes that are available on the market that are just not below $400,000?

COFFMAN: [00:13:11] Mm-hmm. Well, “affordable” traditionally is calculated as about a third of a person’s budget. No more than a third of their budget should go to housing. If you look at what renters are paying — really, all over the state — for housing right now, because of the lack of quantity in housing, we have a lot of folks who are paying more than that. And that means they have to cut in terms of their dis–. They don’t have disposable income. It goes to housing. It goes to clothing their kids, and education, and the things that they have to do in order to maintain a lifestyle. There are–. The problem is different, depending on where you are in the state. But there are certainly commonalities. And folks are looking at building more high density housing in the Front Range, building taller buildings — hopefully not 85 story skyscrapers. I would rather not see that. But we have to — this is a consequence of not planning, I think, ahead, and not making the regulations that fall on contractors and folks who construct those houses — making it easy enough to build houses quickly. The permitting processes that we have take — add a great deal of time to building a house. And people still want — we’re still building big, expensive houses. I live in a neighborhood where every small house like mine is being torn down and replaced by a luxury house that’s about one point $1.5 million. That’s not the market we need to be looking at. We need to be looking at — more like the market I’m in, which is a small house that’s between the three and four hundred thousand dollar range. And we’re not being realistic about what people need in the future, and how people are going to live.

SENGENBERGER: [00:15:02] So, it would seem to me — I mean, there’s only so much government can really do. A lot of times we look to government and say, “Oh! Fix the problem!” But oftentimes — like this idea of, “Let’s give government money to help support projects or those kinds of things,” can raise the price of homes on the competitive marketplace. And just to put this environment in perspective, we have a gentleman –Mark Jesup, from Keller Williams DTC — who has been on this program several times. And he has come on and said there are about — and this is consistent for the last number of months — about 3900 homes in a 40 mile radius from Civic Center Park, and only about 900 of them are 400000 dollars or below. It’s stunning!

COFFMAN: [00:15:44] It really is. And I think people have to make decisions — life decisions — about where they live and whether they stay in Colorado, whether they stay in the Front Range or move to a rural community. Let me tell you, that’s not necessarily the answer because housing — there’s a housing pinch in other parts of the state. So, yes, we–. It’s not all on government shoulders. It should not be. But we should be partnering with private companies and associations that have good ideas about how to fix the problem, rather than saying government should solve it, because we’re not always the brightest on issues of business. And we can’t expect that we have all the answers in government.

SENGENBERGER: [00:16:31] That’s why you let the businesses have — not “free reign” completely, because there is important regulations and whatnot — but that’s why you give them the room, the space to be able to succeed and make decisions that are truly best from a market standpoint, as opposed to central planning.

COFFMAN: [00:16:49] Absolutely true! And that’s why, when a governor appoints boards and commission members who regulate business, it’s so important to get quality people who make decisions just on that basis.

SENGENBERGER: [00:17:02] Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, our guest here in studio. She is running as a Republican candidate for governor. One other issue that I particularly want to talk about is education, both the cost aspect of education — how to fund it and improve it — and then also school safety issues. Let’s start with the former, just because we’re talking about — we’ve been talking about cost and dollars and cents issues. What do you think about this idea that we’ve got in K through 12 education in particular, for the moment, a — you know, a funding pinch in that area and that it’s causing more struggles for the education system. How would you address funding? How would you address quality?

COFFMAN: [00:17:38] Big questions. I think there does have to be some reform in terms of how we fund public education in this state. It’s not necessarily a question of putting more money into education. It’s putting more money into classrooms, versus administration. And that’s something that we struggle with. I think every state struggles with [that]. But if if we look at per-pupil costs in Colorado, we’re not doing too badly compared to other rates. So, I think this is a quality issue, as much as it is a quantity issue. And we have people wanting other options besides just their local public schools. We have to look at school choice when we talk about this. We have to look at charter schools and how we fund those schools, and potentially voucher programs. So, I think we have to look at the smorgasbord of educational opportunities to see what’s best for kids.

SENGENBERGER: [00:18:38] And I love that word: “smorgasbord!” You know, I’ve used that before, but not very often. It’s not very common. I like it. All right, Attorney General Coffman one other topic dealing with funding is higher education. That’s obviously been something that’s pinched in this state. What do you see as being important to do about that?

COFFMAN: [00:19:00] Well, I think we have to look at how we make funding available to students. I always encourage young people who come to me, and [I]say, “Don’t go into debt if you don’t have to.” Much easier said than done, in the current economy. And sometimes I think, with the money that we have flowing into student loans and the availability of that money, it just forces the price of higher education up, because institutions know that they can command a higher price. I think we have to be good consumers of education, and say, “What are we getting for our money?” And we have to — the schools, and those who run them — have to look at what they’re providing for the money that they’re asking, and whether they’re preparing students for the economy and for the jobs that will be available when they graduate.

SENGENBERGER: [00:19:51] One more question on the subject of education as we wrap up with you, is school safety. I mean, this is something that’s on everybody’s minds right now with what happened in Florida last week. What do we have in Colorado that’s existing to promote school safety? And also, what would you like to see done, in addition to what we’ve got today?

COFFMAN: [00:20:11] You know, we have perhaps the premier program in school safety. And unfortunately it seems to be the best kept secret, as much as we try to get the word out. We have a program called ‘Safe to Tell.’ It is run out of my office — out of the Attorney General’s office. It was started after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, when we realized that kids needed a way to anonymously report things that they saw at school. Because kids know before adults do. And they may or may not choose to share with a parent or with a teacher what they know. They may be afraid of retribution, or concern that someone will consider them a snitch. So, they can call in, they can do a web tip, or there’s a mobile app for Safe to Tell. And it has worked so extraordinarily well in Colorado. Every year we get more tips. We’re able to help kids. It’s not the government doing it though, Jimmy, which is what is so great. We send that information to local communities, to the school district, and the school into law enforcement the community, and say, “Here’s some information we received about a kid potentially bringing a gun to school. You now get to decide how you want to handle it in your community, based on your norms and values.” And I can’t even tell you the increase we have seen in the last few days in the calls from kids and parents who are telling us about potential threats at school, because we have copycat opportunities — individuals who want to see their school canceled for a day by making a threat. And some of them are very serious. Some of them are legitimate kids who have guns and they want to come to school and they want to shoot.

SENGENBERGER: [00:21:50] It’s not good that that’s going on. But it’s good that we have that type of infrastructure in place. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, we’re about out of time, so I want to ask you the favorite question of every candidate that we bring onto the program, which is, where can people go to learn more about you and your campaign?

COFFMAN: [00:22:07] Thanks, Jimmy. And thanks for the time. I’ve really enjoyed it. We have a website at that has information available to folks about how to volunteer and donate and be a part of the campaign, and to learn more about what our priorities are. So, I hope folks will take advantage of that. And for those who go through the caucus and assembly process, I certainly would appreciate their support, coming up in the next two months.

SENGENBERGER: [00:22:34] And caucus, coming up on Tuesday, March 6th. So, it’s just a couple of weeks away. I had to look at my watch and say, “Oh, my goodness! It’s just two two weeks from today.

COFFMAN: [00:22:45] I have to go get to work, Jimmy.

SENGENBERGER: [00:22:46] [You’ve] got to make sure that — you’ve got a couple of different jobs, right now, to be handling.

COFFMAN: [00:22:50] I do!

SENGENBERGER: [00:22:50] Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Republican candidate for governor. Always a pleasure. Thanks so much for joining us in studio.

COFFMAN: [00:22:55] Thank you very much, Jimmy. It’s a pleasure!

SENGENBERGER: [00:22:57] And drive safely, back on those roads. And to all of you, as well, the very same thing! [It is] very slick, very challenging out there! So, be safe!