Keep cash flowing to the West, Buck says

U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck speaks to about 40 people at a rally on the steps of the old Mesa County Courthouse Thursday. Buck is running for Sen. Michael Bennet’s seat.

While he advocates a serious diet of spending cuts for the federal government, one program that ought to survive is one that transfers money from federal coffers to state and local governments in the West, Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck said.

Buck spoke to a rally of about 45 people Thursday morning in front of the old Mesa County Courthouse, then to the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel.

Buck is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet, who is seeking election in his own right this November after being appointed to the seat by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2009.

An avowed cutter of federal spending, especially the Departments of Education and Energy, Buck said in an interview that federal programs that pump money into rural local governments ought to be considered separately.

The federal payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program, in which Congress directs money to local school districts, counties and small municipalities, is an important part of those economies.

The program is intended to help local governments that can’t levy property taxes on the federal lands that surround them.

“The federal government can’t decide about its role on public lands,” unable to decide between being “a landlord and a good neighbor,” Buck said.

Its responsibilities to local governments means that the payments program outweighs other programs, Buck said.

Buck, listed as a supporter of Referendum A, the water-storage measure that sunk a class of Colorado Republicans after it was defeated in 2003, said he remains a supporter of water-storage projects.

“We keep sending water out of the state,” he said. “We shouldn’t do that.”

The federal government shouldn’t be the only player in water storage, Buck said. Business interests also can play a role, he said.

With the federal debt reaching $13.5 trillion, Americans are going to have to expect less from the federal government, Buck said, citing programs such as the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, as well as Amtrak.

Social Security also will have to change for future pensioners, he said, though not for people who now are receiving benefits.

Younger people will have to see their benefits linked to life expectancy.

Though he has been an opponent of mean testing, it could be required for the wealthiest of recipients, Buck said.

Younger contributors could be offered what Buck called “Social Security plus” — the opportunity to set aside a percentage of their income in government-approved investment programs. That money would belong to the recipients and could be withdrawn as needed after a certain age, Buck said.

Once a death sentence for politicians who took it on, Social Security has become an acceptable subject of discussion because of the nation’s financial straits, Buck said.

Though he would vote to repeal the health care legislation passed this year, some elements of the law, including coverage of pre-existing conditions, could be worth preserving, Buck said.

The individual mandate, however, would have to go, he said.

The process of repealing and possibly retaining parts of the law would have to be a public and transparent one, he said, calling the legislative action that led up to it “a corrupt process.


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