Post Independent - Schaffer Discusses the Issues with Rotary Clubs in Glenwood Springs
Colorado Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer spent part of Tuesday speaking with Glenwood Springs Rotarians. Schaffer is currently the vice chairman of the Colorado school board and was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 representing Colorado's Fourth Congressional District, where he served three terms. Schaffer, who lives in Fort Collins, lost in the primary election to be the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat in 2004, eventually won by Democrat Ken Salazar. This year he is a candidate for Colorado's other Senate seat being vacated by Republican Wayne Allard, campaigning against Democrat Mark Udall.
In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the state of Colorado currently that need the most immediate attention?
Bob Schaffer: Energy. The high price of energy and the lack of leadership in the current U.S. Congress is one that is affecting Coloradans in a variety of ways. The high price of gasoline is not a spontaneously occurring economic event. The reason we are paying such exorbitant prices for energy is because of either indecision, which is usually the case of Congress, but more often bad decisions that have been made over the last several years, the laws that make it illegal for Americans to produce energy here on our American soil is one reason that it's been very difficult for the country to improve supply in a way that meets demand that we have domestically.
And that is in all areas, conventional oil and gas as well as coal, but unconventional sources as well - oil shale and renewables like wind and solar power. In all of these areas Congress has not moved fast enough, or quickly enough, or decisively enough in a way that has prepared the country toward current global realities regarding energy supply and America's needs to plan for its future.
That result is we are paying exorbitant prices at the pump that results in $700 billion a year being sent overseas to purchase oil, gas and other energy. And I'm sick and tired of seeing America pay that kind of money to countries that often times end up spending those dollars in ways that are harmful to the United States.
I want to see America drill more. I want to see us explore more of what is available for us out on the intercontinental shelf, the northern slope or elsewhere in the United States as well as right here in Colorado where we have opportunities to produce additional resources and contribute to a growing economy.
What do you think about opening the Roan Plateau and other protected lands for leasing for energy exploration?
Schaffer: I tend to agree with Governor (Bill) Ritter that the ban on careful development of energy resources on the Roan Plateau was a bad idea. It was a bad Idea supported by only a handful, not even a handful, but by Democrats on the left end of the political spectrum - Mark Udall, Ken Salazar, John Salazar - it was not supported generally by others in that party, including Governor Ritter and certainly not supported by a great number of people who are concerned about preserving a multiple-use approach to the Roan Plateau. I think the governor's compromise solutions or suggestions on drilling at 1 percent activity at any one time gives reasonable assurance so that there is going to be sufficient oversight and attention paid to maintain and preserve the environmental integrity of the resources, while at the same time allowing for energy production on the Roan Plateau.
What about education? What are the top issues facing public education across the state or nationwide?
Schaffer: The federal government has a bad habit of meddling in public education in a way that disrupts the ability of local school board members and superintendents and school teachers to make the best and most important decisions for their academic setting locally.
In addition to intervention, the fact that there are mandates already on the books and have been for years that the federal government doesn't pay its share. The biggest culprit is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, which is part of civil rights laws of school laws at the national level.
The federal government promised in the '70s when it created IDEA that it would pay 40 percent of the cost and states would pay the other 60 percent. The problem is that the federal government doesn't pay its fair share. In fact, when I got to Congress in 1996, the federal government's share was not 40 percent as promised but was down to 7 percent, which was appalling. When the federal government does not pay its share because it has other priorities, every school board member and superintendent has to go scavenge for funds. You can't get out of the mandate, you have to deliver the programs according to the law. And if the government doesn't pay you have to get the funds from somewhere else, which ends up being teacher salaries, transportation, classroom materials, capital construction.
It restricts the flexibility of the local education leaders to make other important budgetary decisions for their classrooms. The most important thing the federal government could do is to pay for the mandates it has on the books and see that it maintains them all. If Congress doesn't have the courage to pay for it then these mandates ought to be abolished.
Your website (www.bobschafferforsenate.com) states, "The only reason the current politicians haven't addressed illegal immigration is because they lack the will and lack the courage." Explain your view on this statement and the problems with immigration.
Schaffer: The disaster we have with America's immigration system is because of inaction and it's because members of Congress lack the courage to put forward suitable legislation that establishes some order and insists upon a legal immigration process.
The country should be decidedly in favor of - and insist upon - a fully legal immigration system that rewards those who apply for work visas or those who apply for citizenship, or for who apply for resident status in the United States. Those who apply legally ought to be rewarded with freedom and participation in the nation's economy that America affords and allows.
But our country has turned a blind eye too often to those very obvious cases where you have a run on the border or people who overstay visas, or those who've in other ways brazenly taken advantage of the lax enforcement in America's immigration laws to the point where we have somewhere between 12 and 20 million immigrants who are here illegally, breaking America's laws on a daily basis by being here illegally.
Congress has done virtually nothing other than yell and scream and speak in platitudes about the topic. Congress lacks the will to address these problems, and that's part of the reason the approval rating for the United States Congress is down around 9 percent. They spend more time on partisan bickering and infighting and polarizing than they do solving America's legitimate problems.
They just took a five-week vacation without addressing this issue of energy or anything that is significant to the nation. They did manage to name about 112 new post offices after people, and I think they gave themselves pay raises, they had time for that. They can agree on those things but they can't seem to agree on the problems that are costing us dearly as a nation and are threatening our stability as a republic.