LOVELAND — Democrat Bill Ritter and Republican Bob Beauprez talked Monday about how they would best lead the state in issues such as illegal immigration, transportation, health care and tax policy.
The two main Colorado gubernatorial candidates traded barbs at The Ranch during a debate sponsored by the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, a pro-business group.
Beauprez said the state needs someone who is familiar with the workings of business.
“If you’re going to talk about economic development, you’re going to want a governor who’s been there and done that,” he said.
Throughout the debate, Ritter brought up the success of Referendum C, last year’s ballot measure that retains tax rebates for specific state projects.
The candidates also fielded questions about immigration.
Beauprez said he would lead a gubernatorial delegation to the Capitol to address immigration. But Ritter criticized his lack of action in Congress on the issue. Beauprez has been a 7th Congressional District Representative since 2002.
“I’d like you to lead a delegation of congressmen,” Ritter said.
The exchange set the tone for the afternoon’s debate.
On transportation, Ritter said Referendum C allowed the state to spend more money on transportation. Beauprez said the referendum didn’t solve the problem, as it expires in four years.
Fielding a question about health care, Beauprez said there should be incentives to “grow new doctors and nurses,” allow rural Coloradans to get long-distance care and reduce doctors’ threat from lawsuits.
Ritter again cited Referendum C in his rebuttal.
“We do have a nursing shortage. They attend community colleges. Ten of 13 community colleges would’ve collapsed without Referendum C,” he said.
When both candidates were asked to talk about tax policy, not including Referendum C, they couldn’t avoid talking about the measure.
Beauprez said Ritter leads by “looking backward.” He also said Coloradans should receive a dollar of value for every dollar in taxes they pay.
Ritter responded, saying Beauprez supports selling off state assets and securitizing the tobacco settlement to balance the state budget.
“We’ve got $48 billion in assets in this state,” Beauprez said. “Do you think we need to keep every single one of them?”
Beauprez’s closing remarks cautioned the audience against allowing the state to be under the control of one party: the Democrats.
“There is a reason Bill Owens vetoed 92 bills,” he said.
Beauprez also said the state government should cut taxes where it can, because lower taxes usually relate to economic growth.
Ritter countered with the same logic, saying fiscal responsibility at the federal level under the Republican Party has grown the national debt to $9 trillion.
“You voted with the president 95 percent of the time,” Ritter said. “You bet I oppose a business plan where we accelerate the tax cuts.”