GJ crowd sometimes tense during meeting with Bennet

Senator: Stimulus package is the 1st step

Stan Rachesky of Glenwood Springs asks Sen Machael Bennet a question at the town Meeting at the Whitman Educational Center in GJ monday evening.

A $787 billion economic stimulus package the president will sign into law today is only the first step the government should take to reinvigorate the economy, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., told nearly 150 locals Monday evening.

“There is a growing view on both sides of the aisle and among economists that whatever we do, it won’t be bold enough,” Bennet said.

The recently appointed senator said the nation needs “the fortitude” to act so the country does not economically founder for a decade or more.

Bennet’s comments, however, drew a mixed reaction from the crowd at the Museum of the West.

“It’s my money!” local business owner Jeff Leany shouted at one point.

Nancy Angle, a retired teacher, told Bennet that the stimulus package does little for retirees who have had to watch the value of their savings tumble.

“I have to die five or six years earlier — maybe 10,” Angle said.

Bennet said the stimulus package is not perfect, but it should start to get the economy back on track.

The meeting briefly devolved into a heated exchange with Bennet raising his voice during a discussion about whether higher income-earners should pay more taxes than the middle class.

“Hold it. That’s fine,” Bennet sharply told an audience member who interrupted him. “I’m not going to argue. I’m not going to argue with that.”

Though tense at times, the meeting ended on a high note, with Bennet receiving a round of applause from the audience.

Bennet’s stop in Grand Junction was his last during a tour of the Western Slope this week. He is expected to join President Barack Obama in Denver today for the signing of the economic stimulus package.

Local Republicans vehemently have opposed the president’s stimulus plan, however, county leaders who have vocally protested the plan said they still plan to accept Mesa County’s slice of the billions in stimulus package funds that will flow to Colorado.

Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis said prior to Bennet’s speech he wishes he could stand on principle and eschew the federal money, but that would not be good for the county.

“I’d love to make a stand on behalf of Mesa County citizens … but it would hurt them in the process from a financial standpoint,” Meis said, adding, “If we don’t get (the stimulus dollars) they just give them to someone else.”

Meis along with other local conservatives held a public rally Saturday where they attacked the stimulus package.


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