Business for Breakfast, Cynthia Coffman, January 12, 2018

Station:   KDMT, 1690 AM

Guests:    Coffman, Cynthia


Date:        January 12, 2018


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HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER:: [00:00:00] One of those candidates is Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who joins us now for the first time as a candidate for Governor here, on Business for Breakfast. Good morning, A.G. Coffman, and welcome to the show!


SENGENBERGER: : [00:00:13] It’s great to talk with you. And I want to start by asking you a question I always ask candidates their first time on the program. And that is, who is Cynthia Coffman and why are you running for governor?

COFFMAN: : [00:00:25] Well, as you mentioned, I’m the current Attorney General. I’ve spent the last three years — well, the two of the Obama administration, certainly — fighting federal overreach on behalf of Coloradans. And I want to be governor because, as I have traveled the state, I’ve realized that the problems that we have, the things that need solutions, require the leadership of a governor and a Republican governor to solve. And I am a person who likes to solve problems and bring people together for solutions. And that’s why I want to be governor.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:00:55] What do you think is the most important issue facing this state today?

COFFMAN: : [00:01:00] You know, it’s hard to narrow it down to one.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:01:03] Of course.

COFFMAN: : [00:01:04] Because, as you well know from your conversations on your show, there are things that impact our fiscal well-being and economy. And those are the things that I’m most concerned about — one being, of course, our infrastructure, and something that the governor talked about yesterday. I disagree with his means of raising the money to fix roads and bridges. But I agree that that has to be the priority. And we have to put transit second on the list. it’s been the priority for a number of years and it’s time to fix roads and bridges. And I also think dealing with health care issues and increasing access to quality affordable health care, dealing with a disparity in insurance premiums around the state and access to care. And we can’t count on Washington to fix that. We’ve got to look to ourselves in Colorado and say what’s the solution for us.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:01:57] Let’s talk about a couple of those issues because I think transportations when we’ve discussed quite a bit. You made an interesting point and that is when it comes to the idea of roads and bridges versus transit — we hear transit talked about all the time. Why do you think there’s an importance to making a distinction between the two, and prioritizing roads and bridges versus transit?

COFFMAN: : [00:02:19] Well the majority of people in Colorado drive cars or trucks to do business and to move goods across the state. And that’s just a fact of life. We can encourage those in the crowded front range to use mass transit. But Coloradans enjoy driving. They like the independence and the freedom of being on their own time schedule and being behind the wheel. And we just haven’t given it the attention that we need to We’ve let our population growth outpace the ability of our infrastructure to support it. And out here in western Colorado, where I am this morning, it’s the same issue. These folks want to see safety improvements made, shoulder’s widened, ways to keep wildlife off the road — basic things that make people safe. And those are priorities for people in their lives, and government needs to follow that and make those the priorities for spending.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:03:16] Out in a place like Mesa County, where you are right now is obviously transit isn’t the top item because that’s more focused on the big cities, like when we’re talking about Denver and so forth. And then I do think that when it comes to transportation issues we’re very much, you know, being somebody from the Denver metro area we’re very much Denver metro-centric.

COFFMAN: : [00:03:38] We are. And folks out here, they hurt as a result. And on the eastern plains as well because we we tend to focus on ourselves and where the population center is in the front range and I truly think that Governor Hickenlooper has overdone that — and his administration.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:03:58] Finally, then, on the issue transportation, what would you like to see done about it if you were to be elected governor?

COFFMAN: : [00:04:06] I think the first thing to do — and I realize that the legislature is looking at various funding proposals. There are going to be ballot initiatives, I think, from what I can tell, all over the board about how to do transportation funding. But we’ve got to look to our current budget. I think we’ve got to find at least 300 million dollars so that we can bond for transportation improvements. But I would have a CDOT director who shares my priority for making roads and bridge constructionm the most important things. I would go through the top priority list — the Tier 1 priorities that CDOT has set — and see if they are truly the correct places where we can impact the most people and give people some additional time in their schedules to spend at home or doing what they like to do in terms of recreation, and not on the road.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:05:01] Now, you mentioned health care a moment ago, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, our guest, again, Republican candidate for governor. And it’s interesting because we’ve heard a lot about what the federal government should have done and obviously was unsuccessful at doing up to this point, although they did get rid of the individual mandate in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. What can the state level do to address health care costs?

COFFMAN: : [00:05:24] Well one of the first things we have to grapple with is how we pay for the Medicaid expansion that has occurred the last few years under the Affordable Care Act. We have many more people who are now on our Medicaid rolls. And unfortunately we can’t go back without losing federal funding. So we’ve we’ve got to manage that population. We’ve got to keep them healthy. We’ve got to do more preventative care. And we’ve got to make sure that people have the means to get to a doctor close to them, as close as possible. [In] some of these rural areas, people have to drive a long distance. So, are there ways to use telemedicine or some sort of mobile health unit to help people in the communities where they are and actually save money? We also have to look at the disparity of insurance premiums, particularly in the mountain corridor where there are few providers and people are paying much more for their health care insurance than they should be. So we’ve got a lot to do in the area of health care and I think making sure that we have solid leadership in our agencies in the state, that deal with health care, is extremely important. And I’ve got to share conservative ideals.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:06:39] And so when we talk about the issues that are facing Colorado in terms of the economy, obviously having a thriving business environment is very important. What steps would you like to take if elected governor of the state of Colorado in order to promote the ability for businesses to thrive and to create jobs and to be prosperous in this state?

COFFMAN: : [00:07:00] You know, we’ve been talking about some of the things that attract business to Colorado or cause companies to turn and go the other direction, in terms of health care and transportation and improving education And K12 education is another piece of that. I think we have to look to our universities to say, “Are you graduating folks whose experience and whose qualifications match what employers in this country and in the state are looking for so that we produce this skill set and the folks to enter our workforce that are needed?” And I think there is there’s a tendency to try and appeal to particular businesses to come to the state without thinking about whether we have the qualified workforce. We have a low unemployment rate but there are parts of rural Colorado that desperately want those jobs. . They want the manufacturing and the industry. They want to be contributing to the economy, and they have not bounced back from the 2008 recession like Denver has. So I think when we are attracting business and training our workforce, we have to think about areas outside the front range, too.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:08:08] Talk to us, if you will for a moment, Attorney General Coffman, about TABOR and the protections of Tabor when it comes to, you know, raising taxes on Coloradans that could stymie the ability for businesses and investors to be prosperous in the state.

COFFMAN: : [00:08:26] You know, TABOR’s an extremely important part of what we do in Colorado government and the way that we budget. And it gets a bad rap. I think we have seen the state Supreme Court chip away at what TABOR was intended to do, with some court decisions that allow workarounds, around TABOR. And it’s something that we have to unfortunately live with in Colorado. But our office — the Attorney General’s Office — has consistently defended TABOR. because it does keep the state from growing beyond its means and it’s one of the reasons that we have a flourishing economy that we do in Colorado that many other states don’t have. We have come back in a way that a lot of folks have not. In other states, and when I talk to other Republican governors and the problems they’re still having are things that fortunately we never experienced in Colorado because we do have that cap on spending and we let our voters decide whether we should have a tax increase. And it’s basically driving government back to the people and giving support to the grassroots of Colorado. And I think that’s a good thing.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:09:39] Now last week there was a lot of controversy swirling about in regards to the federal government in the marijuana industry and how it might be impacted here in the state of Colorado, which is a very significant topic. I mean, it’s a it’s, you know, amassed a great sum of money. It has become a significant component to the Colorado economy, for better or for worse, depending on one’s perspective. You urged some caution for concern that some folks had had about this issue. Talk to us about your understanding of where things are atm and why people should or should not be concerned.

COFFMAN: : [00:10:13] You know, even in the last few days we’ve seen Cory Gardner — Senator Gardner — having a meeting with Jeff Sessions to try and get clarity on what it is that the Department of Justice has in mind. And I don’t think we’re there yet. What the general sessions did in issuing a memo that rescinded all of the guidance that had been given to the states with legalized recreational marijuana and medical marijuana was essentially take away the rules that we had been playing by, that had actually in large part been working for us. In our partnership between DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the attorney general’s office, we have been targeting the priorities that were set out in the Cole memo, particularly dealing with the diversion of illegal marijuana outside of the state and those who would come into the state and grow under the specter of our legality and then put money — excuse me, put marijuana out in the black market. So it has it has been working. And my sense in talking to U.S Attorney Troyer is that he intends to keep those same priorities. Really, Sessions opened the door for his attorneys around the country — 93 of them strong — to each do their own thing. I think what we’ll see is a patchwork and inconsistency. And I’m not sure that’s the best thing for any business.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:11:46] Our final topic. because I know you’ve got a plane to catch –Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, our guest — but on the issue of oil and gas, obviously your office and the attorney general’s office has pushed back on localities and the issues of self-regulation where localities have tried to regulate their own issues of oil and natural gas, oftentimes in violation of state law. There is a push right now by some legislators in the state House and State Senate to undo that, to basically make it so that the localities have more control over oil and gas regulations. What is your thought on that?

COFFMAN: : [00:12:23] You know, it’s a problem. It’s a problem for the industry. It’s a problem for Colorado. From an economic perspective, I’ve talked to folks in the oil and gas industry who say if this trend continues of having local jurisdictions pass their own regulations that are more more onerous than the state regulations, that they will simply leave. They will take their business elsewhere and they won’t invest in Colorado. The ripple effect on our economy will be more than people I think actually realize when it comes to the money that we get — that goes into schools and to libraries and to community centers — and paying the folks in the jobs in the oil and gas industry. I agree. Safety is the priority. And I think that folks are understandably wanting to protect their local areas. But in many cases, the development has moved and the housing and the schools have moved to the oil and gas development, and not vice versa. And so you — there does have to be a balance between local communities and the folks who are doing business. And I think Oil and Gas is responsive to that. But we need a framework from Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — like we have now, that applies to all 64 counties — that is predictable and consistent and allows business owners to know what the rules are.

SENGENBERGER: : [00:13:53] Attorney General Coffman, always a pleasure. Never enough time. We’ll look forward to having you back again soon on the program to talk about some more issues. But thanks for joining us on Business for Breakfast this morning.

COFFMAN: : [00:14:04] Thank you Jimmy. Happy Friday.

HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER:: [00:14:05] You as well.