Guv Candidates talk infrastructure, education, health

Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates took the stage Friday morning for the first time together to talk about the issues that matter to the business community at the Candidate Forum hosted by the Chamber, the Denver Business Journal and more than 20 community partners whose reach spans across the state.

Democratic candidate and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and Republican candidate and Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton both emphasized the importance of investing in infrastructure – from Colorado’s transportation system to broadband – and focusing on education and health care. While their priorities may be similar – their approaches vary. Watch the entire forum, which was streamed by 9NEWS:

Here’s what we heard about those issues and our economy:

Education: Polis noted his focus will be on early childhood education, adding “we hope to work towards full day kindergarten and expanding the number of preschool spots.” Stapleton noted the importance of postsecondary education and the challenges of funding higher education and of students taking on debt. Both agreed on support for concurrent enrollment and opportunities to get Colorado’s youth the education and training they need. “We are making a disingenuous promise to students that everyone needs to go to college,” Stapleton said.

Health Care: “When it comes to Colorado’s health, we can do better and we must,” Stapleton said, adding that cost is a challenge and that he would work to streamline the agencies that provide Medicaid coverage in Colorado and remove the individual mandate for consumers. “If we don’t,” he added, “the budget will be broken.” Polis, in contrast, has voiced support for a universal health care system. On any health care solution that he would consider if elected governor, he said: “My north star on health care to measure any good idea … is does it reduce cost, does it expand coverage and does it improve quality?”

Infrastructure: Both voiced support for investing in Colorado’s transportation infrastructure, its water plan and broadband. In addressing these statewide issues, Polis said he would serve as a “convener in chief,” adding “A governor shouldn’t say it’s my way or the highway … a governor should listen.”  Stapleton said, “it is a question of leadership, and leadership that I cannot wait to provide,” noting that the private sector can play a role in addressing these issues.

Our Industries and Economy: Stapleton noted the importance of supporting jobs in rural Colorado: “In order to have economic development you need to have jobs, and you need to have a growing and expanding Colorado economy,” he said, “… you need to be supportive of projects in rural Colorado that have bipartisan support.” Polis noted his experience as a business owner and fostering the blossoming startup community. “I’m very excited by the startup community here in Colorado,” Polis said, noting he wants to make it easier to start and grow companies in Colorado by making it easier to raise capital and increasing opportunities for mentoring. “We have a tremendous creativity of spirit in Colorado and a real spirit of entrepreneurship.”

Want more on the forum? Here’s more coverage:

Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Chamber.