King emits sound bites, while Konola offers solutions

The Club 20 debate between Claudette Konola and Steve King pitted a policy wonk against a political peacock.

Konola recognizes public policy decisions as a key to addressing economic, environmental and social issues. For King, policy amounts to little more than endorsing the Republican mantra that lower taxes and small government solve all problems.

The characterization of King as a political peacock was one of Konola’s best moments in the debate. “Mr. King is long on bumper-sticker slogans and short on plans for solving problems,” she said. “My girlfriends and I used to call men like these peacocks. They looked good until they opened their mouths.”

Certainly nobody questions that King looks good. (Though some people, including the House ethics committee and Konola, have questioned how appropriate it is to use campaign contributions to keep himself looking like he stepped out of GQ.) He is a master of the blow dryer. A regular peacock, some might say.

As for the substance of King’s sound bites, consider this one: “My opponent … is interested in businesses borrowing money and I’m interested in Colorado businesses making money.”

What does that mean? Does King believe that businesses can operate effectively without access to credit? Does he not recognize that frozen credit for small business is one of the key causes of the present recession? Does he think that saving a company a few thousand dollars in business personal property taxes is more important than the business having access to the million-dollar line of credit needed to finance expansion?

Konola, on the other hand, approaches the issue from a policy perspective. One possible policy would be to deposit state funds in local and regional Colorado banks. This, she argues, would increase funds available for banks to lend, making it possible for small business to get the credit they depend on.

Her other, more complex proposal is to generate venture and investment capital by allowing successful businesses to shelter some of their taxes in a Community Development Entity. The CDE would offer loans below market rate to small businesses and make venture-capital investments in emerging enterprises. The CDE program reduces taxes for successful businesses, makes low-interest loans to expand small businesses, and makes capital available to promising new entrepreneurs. All at no cost to taxpayers.

King perverted Konola’s suggestion into a fantasy of the federal government taking over Fox News and degrading their “fair and balanced” reporting. This produced a scoff from Konola and a good deal of laughter from the audience.

King wants to alleviate the higher- education funding shortfall by charging the cost of remediation programs back to the K-12 system. Our schools are not failing because they are over-funded. Taking money away from them will only increase the number of students unable to enter college-level classes until they master basic skills.

Konola suggests enabling institutions of higher learning to retain a financial interest in commercial ventures developed using their faculties and facilities. This would create a more lucrative revenue stream for higher education without further diminishing the resources for K-12 education.

Perhaps the best example of King’s vacuity is his proposed solution to fixing transportation infrastructure. We will fix it, he says, “when we have a safe, dedicated funding stream.” He apparently has no idea of how such a funding stream could be generated.

Part of the revenue stream King envisioned was created by the FASTER bill (Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery). It will provide $1.5 billion annually to address transportation infrastructure problems. King voted against FASTER.

In none of these issues does King appear to have tested his ideas against anything other than Republican “cut taxes and reduce government” dogma.

Konola understands the relationship between government economic policy and the private sector, and the importance of government developing the right policies to respond to specific conditions. Her positions on economics, jobs, water and other major state issues propose pragmatic solutions to real problems.

“In the history of Colorado, you cannot find a bigger contrast between Democrats and Republicans than you can right now,” King said. The difference between King’s sound bites and Konola’s search for solutions makes that contrast very clear.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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