Key to ending our recession is energy independence, Rep. Salazar says

U.S. Congressman John Salazar talks about a number of issues at the offices of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on Thursday afternoon.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., described himself as a centrist Thursday and pitched a yearlong extension, “at least,” of the Bush tax cuts as a way to help stabilize the national economy.

Salazar, the Manassa potato farmer who is seeking a fourth term in Congress representing most of the Western Slope and southern Colorado, commented on that as well as other issues during his visit Thursday with The Daily Sentinel’s editorial board.

“We need to figure out how to lower the deficit,” Salazar said, noting he is opposed to increasing taxes during a recession.

Salazar, who is being criticized by his Republican opponent, Scott Tipton of Cortez, for his ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said he is hardly the speaker’s favorite congressman because he voted against and worked to organize the opposition on the House floor to Pelosi’s cap-and-trade proposal.

He and other members of the Blue Dog Coalition “will never be in leadership” of the House Democrats, Salazar said. “We’re not ideologues.”

Key to the nation’s recovery from the recession is energy independence, and to accomplish that, Salazar said he supports clean-coal technologies and nuclear energy.

“I don’t see why we don’t do it here,” Salazar said of nuclear power, citing his commitment to renewable and alternative forms of energy as well.

The best way to push up the price of natural gas and thus rejuvenate the western Colorado economy is to increase demand by getting the economy back in gear, Salazar said.

To that end, Salazar said he is not interested in more stimulus spending by the federal government, but the measure is putting people in his district back to work, as evidenced by the half-dozen or so American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signs he saw along roads between Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction.

Still, the first stimulus measure of $787 billion “was plenty big,” Salazar said. “I think we’ve spent enough money.”

The spending was necessary, Salazar said, because the Bush administration had presided over a recession that threatened to grow deeper than the Great Depression. The stimulus measure warded that off, he said.

“I’m not saying the economy has recovered,” he said. “The economy had a broken neck. It’s going to take a while to recover.”

Salazar stressed his ability to work on both sides of the political aisle for issues important to the 3rd Congressional District and his willingness to showcase important local development to national leaders.

“It was I who was responsible for having Barack Obama come to Grand Junction” for a town hall meeting at Central High School on health care legislation, Salazar said.

Salazar said he hopes the coming campaign with Tipton won’t turn toxic, but he is prepared if it does.

“I’ve never drawn first blood. I’m about issues,” Salazar said.

But he couldn’t promise he won’t mount a negative campaign, saying, “Not if my opponent comes out swinging.”

Salazar acknowledged criticism of the Club 20 debate technique in which opponents are allowed to cross-examine, and thus embarrass, the other, but he said it won’t dissuade him from appearing at the organization’s debate next month.


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