One of five announced Democrats seeking to succeed Gov. John Hickenlooper, Cary Kennedy visited Durango on Friday, saying her priorities are education, responsible use of taxpayers’ money and smart growth.
A key factor, she said, to handle economic growth and simultaneously protect Colorado’s air, water and land, is to reform the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits the state’s power to tax and spend.
“We need to stop digging, and denying us the revenue we need to keep up with growth,” Kennedy said during a meeting with The Durango Herald editorial board.
Kennedy, who served as state treasurer from 2007 to 2011 and began her career in politics as an intern to former Gov. Roy Romer in 1989, held meet-and-greet at 5 p.m. Friday at the Rochester Hotel, 726 East Second Ave. She is also scheduled to attend the La Plata County Democratic Picnic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Edgemont Picnic Grounds. She will speak at noon Saturday at the picnic.
Changing the TABOR revenue caps, which limit the state’s annual revenue increases to the rate of population growth plus the rate of inflation, would help Colorado responsibly handle economic growth while providing the funding for infrastructure improvements and protecting the environment, Kennedy said.
But she said she’s looking for a fix for TABOR, not a repeal. She noted: “People like voting on their taxes.” TABOR requires voter approval for any tax increase.
Kennedy said she has long worked to reform the budgetary straightjacket TABOR places on the state.
She is the author of Amendment 23, which requires K-12 education to be increased at the rate of inflation plus 1 percent for 10 years and then at the rate of inflation after 10 years have elapsed. The push for Amendment 23 was one of the first political efforts to ease the TABOR burdens placed on state finances.
Colorado’s success as one of the fastest-growing states in the country, Kennedy said, has not been equitably spread, with large swaths of the rural Colorado not participating in growth seen along the Front Range and the Interstate 25 and Interstate 70 corridors.
She said that a similar inequity is seen in education funding. Many Front Range school districts with strong property-tax bases are better able to handle TABOR’s limits compared with rural districts with smaller tax bases.
“We’re really talking about two Colorados,” she said. “We’ve seen success along the I-25 and the I-70 corridor and in places like Durango, but a lot of rural Colorado has been left behind,” she said.
Kennedy, who lives in Denver, grew up in Evergreen and graduated from Manuel High School in Denver. She is married to Saurabh Mangalik and has two children, Kadin and Kyra.
Colorado’s funding for education, Kennedy said, is too low and inequitably distributed. She said addressing educational challenges will be foremost on her agenda if elected.
“As Colorado moves to a knowledge-based economy, our educational system is leaving too many kids unable to compete for these jobs,” she said.
She praised Hickenlooper for his role in attracting top national and international businesses to Colorado, but she says she would place a higher emphasis on education as governor.
Increasing teachers’ pay would be a focus, she said, adding, “This is the first generation in which we have teachers telling their students not to go into education.”