Dan Maes secured the Republican nomination for governor with Tea Party backing. But his quest for the office has been dogged by allegations of campaign mismanagement. Despite calls from some Republicans that he step aside, the Evergreen businessman remains in the race. He faces Democrat John Hickenlooper and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo. Maes sits down with us for the next hour as we cover Election 2010.
RYAN WARNER, Host:
Dan Maes, thank you for being with us.
DAN MAES, Republican Party Candidate for Colorado Governor:
Thanks for having me again.
Warner: The state’s made up more than $4 billion in budget shortfalls since the recession began. It looks like another $1.25 billion or so will be needed in the next year and a half.
Warner: School spending has already been cut. State employees have taken furloughs. There’s talk now of cutting people off the Medicaid rolls and raising tuition at some state colleges by up to 25%.
With all that, why do you want to be governor now?
Maes: (laughter) You know, I love challenges. I really do. My business history has been entrepreneurial, starting, you know, one or two businesses from scratch, which is a great challenge, and going to two different small businesses and turning those around, which is even greater challenge, I think, is walking into something that’s failing and turning it around and that’s the experience and the skill set I want to bring to the governor’s office.
Warner: You’ve done that on the small business scale. Now it’s a massive business.
Maes: Yes, it is.
Warner: The state of Colorado is a huge entity to run. It’s a different scale.
Maes: Yes. Financially, number of people it is, but the same concepts apply. As simple as this sounds, you’ve got to live within your budget and you’ve got to cut where you can. It’s that simple. People have been doing it all across the state in their households. They’re unemployed. They’re underemployed and they’re giving up and sacrificing and now it’s time for state government to do the same. So we just have to cut where we can.
Warner: We’ll talk about where those cuts will come from in this conversation. But a little bit of the political landscape before we do.
There’s been some controversy around your candidacy. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo left the Republican Party to run against you.
Warner: The GOP state party chairman, Dick Wadhams, said having both you and Tancredo in the race essentially hands the job to Democrat John Hickenlooper. And many prominent Republicans have withdrawn their endorsements of you. Let’s hear from former Republican chairman and former Congressman Bob Beauprez.
BOB BEAUPREZ, Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman:
I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a Republican nominee. You know, as a former party chairman, a lifelong Republican and a Republican elected official, I kind of bleed Republican. But Dan Maes has lost our trust. We’re still trying to figure out who he is, what he believes and I further don’t believe he has the capacity to run the office of governor, the most difficult, the most complex job in the state of Colorado, at a very perilous time.
Warner: How do you respond?
Maes: Well, I think it’s a shame that Bob had to do that. (laughter). Bob mentored me, you know, through this race. I met with Bob-- one of the first meetings I had with anybody was with Bob Beauprez. Who doesn’t love and respect Bob Beauprez in the Republican Party? And at the end of our first meeting, he said, “Dan, based on what I’m seeing, you just might be able to win this thing.”
And we would talk on occasion. I would call him. He might call me, check in, and so I think, you know, this is politics at its worst. A fine and respectable man like Bob would turn and support somebody else. It’s a reflection that this isn’t just about Tom Tancredo not wanting Dan Maes to be governor. This is now about, you know, significant Republicans saying we’re not ready to give up our power to someone who’s an outsider.
But you know what? This makes for good news and it makes for good fodder out there in the media, just like, you know, earlier you used the phrase, “many Republicans” have left my campaign.
Warner: Many prominent--
Maes: Yeah, that’s just not true. You know, it’s two or three and--
Warner: There’s more than two or three.
Maes: No, it wasn’t. (laughter)
Warner: People who have left your campaign for Tancredo?
Maes: Right. Right.
Warner: I’ve seen lists of longer names than that.
Maes: Now that-- now there’s a difference between who had endorsed me and left — Bob Beauprez never supported me — versus Republicans who have chosen to endorse a different candidate.
Warner: Well, they left the Republican candidate.
Maes: That’s a different story.
Warner: But it’s an important one, don’t you think?
Maes: I think it’s relevant, yeah.
Warner: To Beauprez’s point, though, that you’re not qualified to run the state, let’s talk about the substance of his critique there.
Maes: Right. Well, I don’t know. He didn’t, you know, annotate any specific reasons why he felt I was. That’s just a nice sound bite for someone to throw out there. It’s a sound bite like, “He can’t win,” which we heard before the Assembly and we won and we heard before the primary and we won. You know, these are sound bites that plant the seed of fear and doubt in people.
That’s what that-- those comments are really about. They don’t give any specifics about why they have these opinions. They just state opinions that plant fear and doubt in people’s minds. It’s all psychology of campaigning.
Warner: Is it hard to hear that kind of stuff?
Maes: It would have been if I hadn’t been at this for 18 months. But, you know what? I hear the craziest things from people. You know, someone who I can have lunch with one day who says one thing and then the very next day, they’re saying the exact opposite.
This is why I’m running. This is the disgusting behavior that goes on behind politics, the corruption and the manipulation of the process by people who think they deserve to control it and 2010 is a whole new ball game.
The people who should be controlling this process are the voters of Colorado, the average citizen who walks the precincts and hands out the fliers and makes the phone calls and does the leg work. It doesn’t belong just to those who show up, write a check once a year, and go home.
Warner: Let’s move to some issues. Let’s talk about unemployment and a question from Drew Bartlett of Denver. He was laid off from his IT job last year. He’s been making some money here and there as a consultant and he has this question, which he submitted through our Public Insight Network.
DREW BARTLETT, Listener:
My question is, what are you going to do to stimulate job growth in fields of work such as technology where highly qualified candidates such as myself are looking for good-paying jobs?
Warner: And, Dan Maes, before you answer that, let me just say that the IT job that he lost was actually for a construction firm, which is one of the hardest-hit industries in this downturn.
Warner: What is your plan for adding jobs in Colorado?
Maes: Well, thanks for clarifying that. My plan has been very consistent for a long time. We cannot make excuses that the federal economy is tough so our economy is going to be tough. We have to be more aggressive and more assertive in creating an environment where construction companies, IT companies, but especially the energy industry, can flourish again in our state.
In my opinion, our economy will be thrust forward again by the energy industry, first and foremost, and then by small and medium business, which includes IT and construction, et cetera. How do we do that?
With energy, we get after those new regulations that came out. We soften them again to a point where it’s more palatable to the energy industry to come back to our state.
Warner: These have to do-- these have to do with oil and gas.
Maes: Oil and gas regulations and general mineral extraction, as well. Gov. Ritter was elected. He changes the composition of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, which is one of the big jobs governors do. And the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and Bill Ritter sent a message early on that they were going to turn into a new energy economy and forsake the old energy economy and I’m for new energy, but I’m also for old energy.
And this is a roundabout answer to the question, but, you know, we have to be 30% renewable by 2030. Even by 2030, that means 70% of our energy must come from our legacy energy sources. That’s natural gas, that’s oil, that’s coal, perhaps uranium. And we are very rich in all of that in the state.
So we can start harvesting those energy sources and minerals, bring those companies back to our state and then once those companies come back to our state, then the butcher, baker and candlestick maker also start to make money. That would be the construction company that he worked for as an IT specialist. When the energy industry comes back, the average job is $65,000 to $80,000 a year all over our state, from the Western Slope to Yuma County and the Eastern Plains.
So when these jobs come back, people now have to buy and build homes. Construction jobs return. His IT job in the construction company returns.
Then we also get regulations out of the way of small and medium business. That means my lieutenant governor pick, who I’m very proud of, Tambor Williams, was the executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies for two years under Bill Owens and I think she can get in and scrub our regulations and decide, maybe we can get rid of a few of these regulations that would free business up to be courageous to hire again.
And then finally, tax reductions have to occur, as well. We’ve got to eliminate the small business personal property tax. We should work really hard at reducing the commercial property tax in our state, which is very high.
Again, reduce regulation, reduce taxes on business, and then business will flourish and hire.
Warner: Let’s break some of that apart. On the question of energy, are you over-stating the extent to which regulations have affected the market, have affected the interest, and not giving enough credit to the fact that it’s just been a downturn?
Maes: There’s absolutely no doubt that the economy affected our energy production, the downturn in commodity prices, the downturn in our economy. If we look at the Fraser Institute reports that I studied to justify my argument, there were 21 or 22 states on these Fraser Institute reports that measure production and rig counts in the top-producing states. All of those states dropped about 50% in production.
So, yes, indeed, the economy and commodity prices had something to do with it. And I’ve never disputed that, by the way. But very importantly, Denver dropped 70% compared to-- or, excuse me, Colorado did, compared to these other 20, 21 states.
I’m a sociologist and statistician by education. I see direct and indirect correlations in things and there is at least an indirect, if not a direct, correlation between the energy policies of our state that came on with us a few years ago and the fact that we dropped 15% to 20% more than the other energy-producing states. That’s what the reports prove.
Here’s how I do it. It’s common sense. You walk out to Fiesta Guadalajara in Rifle that used to be full, breakfast, lunch and dinner and now it’s over half empty. And they tell us it’s because the energy industry has left their part of the state.
Warner: The other options for adding jobs that you have outlined take some time. I mean, in other words, if you change the tax environment, it’s not as if you flip a switch and the next day more jobs are created.
Warner: So, let me ask you this, the $1.25 billion shortfall that’s estimated over just the next 18 months--
Warner: --is going to have to be solved in the next 18 months.
Warner: Or sooner. Will the sources of revenue that you hope to attract to the state, will that come quickly enough to make a difference fast enough?
Maes: Well, I’m a bit of an optimist, so I probably am a little more optimistic than reality, but that’s how I am and that’s how I’ve gotten to where I am, is-- It’s a process, first of all. Number one, we have to cut the size of government. That’s the first thing that we have to do. So, step number one, downsize government.
Step number two, strengthen our energy industry. It is going to take time to change the content of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, publish new regulations, but, you know, this is an important point. It’s about mentality, as well.
The energy industry started leaving Colorado before the regulations came out, because there was simply a clear message by the Ritter administration that they were going a new direction. They were going to go new energy instead of old energy. So they started capping their wells before the new regulations even came out.
I see the same thing happening. If a new, conservative regime comes in that sends a clear, strong message to all energy and mineral companies, we want you in this state, I believe some will start coming back and uncapping productive wells when they see that there’s a positive environment and a welcoming, can-do attitude towards their industry. So that’s step number two.
First is smaller government, second is regulatory environment to drive revenue in. We can’t do this without driving revenue. If we don’t drive revenue through economic development, someone — and I’m not saying I will — but someone is going to have raise taxes or we’re going to have to thrash the size of government and that may be what we have to do.
Number three, then, is the tax reform that would inspire people to do more hiring.
Warner: On the tax reform, that is, in the short term, cutting revenue.
Maes: That’s right.
Warner: In hopes that it stimulates revenue later on.
Warner: Again, if elected governor, you need to fill this more than $1 billion shortfall the next 18 months.
Maes: Right, right.
Warner: So you’re losing revenue in the short term when you’ve got a short term shortfall to fill.
Maes: Well, maybe I need to-- I haven’t done this before and I appreciate you pushing for a little more specifics.
Step one, step two, step three — they’re not simultaneous. They have to happen in order. And so we cut the size of government first to meet the challenge of our budget shortfall. We generate revenue as quickly as we can. Now, you know, I had a little spat with some folks over at the Denver Post about how fast that can happen.
You know, if you’ve done what I’ve done for 25 years, you can generate revenue a lot faster than people think. I think that you can start seeing new revenues from the energy industry and new hires within six to 12 months, again because the message is being sent that there’s a new sheriff in town and he wants to do business. That will bring revenue and jobs back quicker, I think, than people give it credit for.
The third step, after that, is the tax reform.
Warner: You’re listening to Colorado Matters. I’m Ryan Warner. We’re covering Election 2010 on the program. This week, the candidates join us for governor and for Senate and right now we’re talking with the Republican candidate for governor, that’s Dan Maes.
What cuts will you make to state government?
Maes: What I do always in business when I arrive at a new operation is to get to know them, ask them what’s working, ask them what’s not working and if they were running the show, what would they change and then ultimately, I would say, how much can you cut? Or I will say, you will cut this much. And then it’s the department head’s job to cut that. They have to come back in two weeks or a month or whatever that timeline is and they’re going to have to show me how they’re going to cut their department.
So that’s on them. My job is to make them accountable to do that.
What I will do within the executive branch of government is try to go, perhaps, from 16 departments down to 15 or 14 or 13. Do we need the Governor’s Energy Office? The governor was very aggressive on renewable energy. That’s what his energy office was set up to do. Do we really need that energy office or can we roll it into the Department of Business Development?
Warner: How much would that save?
Maes: I’m not sure, really, but the point is, do we-- we take departments and we consolidate them. It’s not going to be $1 billion, by any means, but, you know, you have to do it one piece at a time.
Do we need Department of Local Affairs? Can they be put into another department? Are they necessary at all? Are they a value-added solution or are they an essential part of government?
You know, just like families do, they have to sit down at the kitchen table and they have to say, you know what, we just can’t go out to dinner any more, because we can’t afford it. Going out to dinner is a non-essential.
So what departments in government are non-essential like that? And then you get down to the basics of, hey, we’ve got to pay our mortgage. We’ve got to pay our car payment and we’ve got to put food on the table.
That’s what-- Colorado is going to have to take a big pill in the next 12 months and that’s the way I’m going to have to manage it.
Warner: What are some of the other pills?
Maes: Again, I think we’re going to have to go into the general fund area. I do think that we have to change eligibility levels in certain areas. For example, I think government has to provide a safety net.
Let me make myself clear on that. You know, I was raised on a safety net. My father died when I was 10 years old and my mother, you know, went off to a factory, worked for minimum wage. I’ve seen the dark side of life and we need a safety net.
Our safety net was my deceased father’s Social Security benefits. And without that, I’m not sure how I would have ever gotten to college.
So we need safety nets. But, for example, the CHIPS program, the child healthcare program.
Warner: This is health insurance for poor kids.
Maes: For poor kids. Well, let’s define what “poor” is. Recently, “poor” was raised. I don’t know the exact number, but I believe it was raised up to nearly $80,000 for a household of four. I don’t think $80,000 on a household of four is poor. But someone recently said it was.
So, should that be lowered somewhat? That’s what I mean by an eligibility requirement.
Warner: Do you know how many children that would affect?
Maes: I don’t know, no. But we should be looking at that. We may have to take people off of Medicaid. Who’s getting Medicaid because the eligibility requirements have been loosened?
Unemployment — now unemployment benefits aren’t part of the general fund, but, you know, people are on unemployment now for two years. That’s insane. I mean, there’s no motivation for anybody to get off the unemployment rolls when they can be on unemployment for two years.
Warner: Quite a few people, though, on unemployment for a long time who have been rather desperately working-- looking for work.
Maes: Well, you know, I hear a lot of different opinions out there, honestly. You’d be amazed what I hear out on the campaign trail, some of it is probably a little unrealistic or extreme. But here’s something I hear regularly. There are people out there looking for employees who say they can’t find any, so they are tempted to bring in — I don’t want to change the subject — but they’re tempted to turn the other cheek or turn their head to illegal immigrants.
There are ranchers and farmers and dairy operations who say, I can’t find people to come to work for $15 an hour, yet they’re sitting on unemployment over here and they’re turning in the report each week saying, oh, yeah, I went out and looked for, you know, my five employers and now they sit back and collect their check.
There’s a lot of dispute out there about how many people are on unemployment because they choose to be, because they’re going to take advantage of the system for as long as they can, until they get, quote, that “perfect job” that they want. You know what? Sometimes you don’t get the perfect job. Think back to our parents’ times. You know, a lot of work wasn’t pretty, but it paid the bills.
And I think-- I think our society has forgotten-- that fine, qualified man, you know, who talked about his IT job. You know what? He may have to go out and deliver newspapers at 6 o’clock in the morning to make a few bucks. You know, we can’t be too proud to take on good work.
Warner: Dan Maes, you’ve already cited Medicaid. K through 12 schools and prisons, along with Medicaid, make up 80% of the state budget.
Maes: They sure do.
Warner: And so to arrive at the kind of budget balancing Colorado needs, you’ve got to look there.
Maes: We do.
Warner: Let’s talk about, then, prisons and schools. First, schools. Would you support further cuts in K through 12 education for the coming year?
Maes: It’s not something we do enthusiastically. “Support” would be a reluctant term. We have to look across the board. And Amendment 23 has been giving protection to K through 12 now for 10 years at the expense of higher ed, prisons, Medicare, Medicaid, et cetera.
I’ve got two children in public school. So I want to make it clear, I want quality public schools. But we have seen, now, that graduation rates are not increasing. Dropout rates in the inner city are not decreasing. CSAP scores are not going up.
So we continue to throw money at K through 12 with little accountability and little results or any improvement on results. So-- not that I want to pick on K through 12, but K through 12 has to be vulnerable, just like everybody else.
Warner: Would you work to repeat Amendment 23, perhaps hold a special election to do so?
Maes: I would consider that, yes. But, you know, we would have to articulate a very strong message that people could relate with as a belt-tightening measure that’s good for the state as a whole and with, perhaps, some assurance-- you know, put a sunset on it for just one or two years, like-- well, I didn’t approve of Referendum C, but that kind of concept where there’s a time out for maybe just one or two years at a time.
Warner: You’ve said schools have been feeding at the trough for too long--
Maes: They have.
Warner: --in the debates. What do you mean by that?
Maes: Well, again, Amendment 23 has provided a guaranteed trough for K through 12 at the expense, especially, of higher education. I think it’s time we brought equity back to that picture.
You know, Amendment 23 was done with good intent and it sure is hard to say we want to get rid of it, because it appears to affect our K through 12 quality. But, again, I’m challenging K through 12 to say, you know what, you’ve been guaranteed revenue now for 10 years and you haven’t produced improved results. You’ve got to find a balance.
Warner: Where do you cut K through 12 constitutionally, then, because part of the question is, how you cut it, given the mandates in the state constitution?
Maes: It’s a delicate situation and I would have to sit down with the policy experts on that to do it and I would like to see Amendment 23 suspended and then would have to, you know, get the policy wonks in the room and say, what’s the best way to do this?
Remember, usually the cuts come down to the district level and then the district, they make their decisions about, you know, are they going to change teacher/student ratios. Are they going to rid of what some perceive as overpaid middle managers and, you know, district superintendents? So it’s not our job to say how it impacts down at the street level. It’s simply to say, K through 12 is going to cut this much and then everybody in the hierarchy will determine, you know, where they cut.
Warner: You use the “policy wonks” in talking about, I guess, folks you would defer to. What would you say to people who want their governor to be a policy wonk, you know, to like eat, breathe, sleep, dream this stuff.
Warner: Because the theme I’ve heard in some of your answers is, you’re not the policy wonk. You’re the guy who delegates.
Maes: Right. Well, I mean, but there’s also the opportunity for us to cut. And remember, the governor only has so much control over the budget. It’s the Joint Budget Committee that has, probably, more control. At least they want people to believe that they have that control and it appears that they do. One of my idols in Colorado government was Gov. John Love for several reasons and one thing Gov. John Love did was try to bring a little bit more control to the budgetary process back to the governor and the Office of State Planning and Budgeting and I would like to do that.
But contrary to perception, the governor doesn’t sit down and chop the budget up personally. He’s got professional experts in the Office of State Planning and Budgeting that do that with him. He doesn’t just sit with, you know, that proverbial axe and start trimming personally, though I wouldn’t be afraid to do that.
Warner: Let’s talk about that third area of the budget, so prisons, and the delicate balance between cuts there and public safety.
Warner: Are there cuts to prisons in a Maes administration?
Maes: I don’t think so. I’ve made it very clear down in Canon City and Fremont County that public safety is probably the closest thing to sacred that we have. There’s going to be some solutions in the prison system, but I don’t see downsizing, you know, prison guards and prison resources.
What I do see, perhaps, is changes in sentencing guidelines. Is there a way to make sure that non-violent criminals aren’t sitting in our prisons? I’m talking about guidelines that keep them from going there in the first place, which would reduce, you know, the per bed count there, which reduces our cost of prisons.
It might be an example of someone who’s been arrested three times for-- you know, two times for drug use and one time for drug distribution and he may end up in prison these days. Well, does he have to be in prison if he’s non-violent?
Warner: Fair to say that if you don’t find significant cuts in prisons, more will have to be absorbed by Medicaid and by education?
Maes: It will. And these are the hard things we have to do. And it may not sound fun, but they have to be done.
Warner: On higher education, we’ve got campuses now that are proposing tuition hikes possibly as high as 25%. Anything you would do to change that or is that the reality you foresee?
Maes: Well, it’s a reality right now. But I have to go back to one of my common themes is this is happening because our state economy is in the tank and no one seems to want to do what it takes to fix it, other than take people’s property tax exemptions away and freeze the mill levy rate and raise the vehicle registration fees because our tax base is eroded because businesses left our state.
We’ve got to get a governor in office who gets the concept of revenue generation, energy industry, small business, get the regulations gone, lower the tax burden, strengthen our tax base, and then higher ed would not have to make these decisions. So higher ed’s been picked on unfairly.
Again, let’s go back to Amendment 23 one more time. It takes-- it puts an undue burden on higher ed and other departments. And so as long as our tax base keeps decreasing, then higher ed’s going to continue to be a victim, which means tuition rates are going to have to keep going up.
So it’s time we strengthened our economy.
Warner: Let’s focus on transportation for a moment.
Warner: Officials in the state recently found that just over half of state roads are in poor condition. Gov. Ritter and the legislature raised some money for roads by increasing vehicle registration fees--
Warner: --the so-called FASTER bill.
Warner: You have called for doing away with FASTER, which raised those fees.
Warner: How do you do that and raise what could be as much as $1.5 billion--
Warner: --to meet — and that’s conservative, by the way--
Warner: --to meet what’s required from, you know, deteriorating roads and bridges.
Maes: Well, I guess this is where liberals and conservatives vary a little bit. I don’t necessarily buy the results of that study. I haven’t read the study, but just because one commission said we need to spend $1 billion a year on maintaining our roads doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with it.
You know, I know this is going to sound very pragmatic, but I’ve put a lot of miles on my car the last 18 months driving this state. I mean, there’s very few roads, state and Interstate roads, that I haven’t been on and I think if I went down those same roads with these engineers who came up with that report that there’d probably be a difference in opinion on it.
Warner: Aren’t these the folks, though, that you’ve talked about needing to trust to come up with the kind of cuts you want to make?
Maes: Well, it depends if, you know, they’re liberal or conservative. You know, conservatives look at things a lot differently than liberals do when it comes to, you know, fiscal management. Conservatives are going to say, you know, that doesn’t need to be replaced or repaired yet and a liberal is going to say, oh, well, we’ve got to maintain that right now or it’s going to fall apart.
And that’s just how people manage their lives differently. There are people out there who are always willing to spend someone else’s money much more quickly than someone who’s going to manage that money much more tightly.
Warner: And so you’re saying that these engineers who came up with this analysis may have political motives?
Maes: I don’t know. I don’t know who wrote it, but I just know that my perspective on life, as a conservative, is things usually don’t need to be maintained or replaced as often as someone-- as my neighbor, who, you know, we see life differently.
Warner: So let’s this. Let’s say like the $1.5 billion — and this was an estimate of a couple of years ago--
Warner: --to fix a crumbling infrastructure. Let’s say it’s half that, a quarter of that.
Warner: Where does that money come from?
Maes: Fair enough. I appreciate that. Again, we come back to our economy. I hate to sound like a broken record, but, again, the reason that we may be having roads suffering is because our economy is suffering and our tax base has eroded so we don’t have revenue for roads.
Let’s look at a couple specific actions that have occurred of late. We haven’t had the problem, but the Arveschoug-Bird Amendment that was in place for a long time and it said if our state general fund budget grows more than 6%, then that money is supposed to be dedicated to transportation.
That was removed this year by the Democratic legislature at the same time they implemented FASTER legislation, which is supposed to put money into transportation. And what we see is a loosening of the guidelines of where money’s supposed to be spent within our state and our general fund. So money that was supposed to be dedicated to transportation is no longer dedicated to transportation.
We have to strengthen our tax base so the-- and then put Arveschoug-Bird back into place so as our economy begins to grow, we can, then, fix these projects. But we can’t fix projects if we don’t have tax dollars.
Warner: One theme that has emerged is that you’re placing a lot of hope on a governor’s ability to turn around an economy--
Warner: --to build revenue--
Warner: --and to solve a lot of ills.
Warner: What if you can’t?
Maes: (laughter) Fair question.
Warner: You’re on the outside now, looking in.
Maes: Right. What if we can’t? That’s a fair question. I guess my confidence comes from the fact that I’ve done this in the business world and there’s a track record there. Even though it was small and medium business, there’s still a track record of getting things done, so I have great confidence in my and my team’s ability to do this.
But with that said, let’s assume that it gets worse, we just can’t get this thing turned around. Then--
Warner: Let me throw in a little projection, by the way. Many economists in the state saying that the job situation won’t really improve in Colorado until 2013.
Maes: So, I’ve heard those numbers myself and, again, I take that as a challenge.
Forgive me, but I’m going to go down a rabbit trail. When I went to western New York to take over a failing little business, the economy was dead in western New York. The whole place was depressed. We tripled revenue in 18 months. Now how come nobody else before me did that?
When I went off to Chicago after that, you know, they’d been there for 10 years, struggling and struggling. We doubled revenue in just two years in a 10-year market-- in a major, difficult market to work in.
I’m not promising the people of Colorado I can do that here. That’s not reasonable or practical.
But some people just have the skills and the mindset and the determination and the persistence and what it takes to get these things done. And that’s one reason I’m emphasizing why I think I’m the best fit for the governor’s office. Because I go in where others have failed and not accomplished things.
But if we can’t get it done, then you have to cut and cut and cut to a point where the people of Colorado scream “uncle” and say, we just aren’t going to do this any more. We can’t live like this any more and then someone’s going to have to — again, I’m not saying I’m going to raise taxes. I’ve signed the Colorado Union of Taxpayers pledge not to raise taxes.
But there are times when if the people demand it — and that’s what I’m about, as well — where the people say, we’ve got to do something different. And if that means them putting a proposal on the table for some kind of gas tax increase or property tax increase or whatever the case may be, I believe if a well-articulated argument goes in front of the people and the people vote for it — that’s what’s not been happening for the last four years. If the people vote for it, then the people choose to do what it takes to make things happen. But that’s not my intent.
Warner: You have talked about laying 2,000 state workers to save $200 million.
Warner: But they’re part of a civil service system--
Warner: --and experts say it would take months, if not years, and maybe legal action, to get them off the payroll.
Maes: That’s possible. There is a civil service program and some jobs are constitutionally protected. But there are some common practices that already exist and that’s not replacing people who retire, not replacing open positions that already exist — that’s probably half of it, right there — and then, if you have to go to the extent of simply not funding positions, then that’s what you do.
I’ll have to sit down with, you know, the head of labor and say what are our choices, how do we do this, is it going to take a layoff instead of a termination and whatever options exist we have to explore that.
Warner: Many of the new state hires over the last four years were in higher education--
Maes: That’s right.
Warner: --at colleges and universities. And under state law, the governor doesn’t make those hires.
Warner: The schools do.
Warner: Would you want more control over that?
Maes: I don’t think I want more control over it, but I certainly hope I could sit down with the head of, you know, of the CU system and others and say, folks, we’ve got to make some tough decisions here.
For example — and I’m not saying I’m going to do this, but let’s think about this — how many major four-year universities do we have in a 75-mile area. In a 25 to 40 mile radius, we have multiple four-year colleges. Why? It’s because the college system, like a business system, are trying to say we’ve got a better program over here. We’ve got a better university over here.
And now we have multiple four-year universities within a 25-mile radius. Is this necessary?
Warner: Some people see that as a great reason to move somewhere.
Maes: It could be. I mean, went down to a wonderful four-year college back in Wisconsin, right out of school, but how many buildings sit empty over half the day? How many duplicate programs and duplicate classes are there? Is this really necessary?
Let’s face it. And I know this steps on people’s toes, but if you went to college, you saw it. I saw it. How many professors who are tenured teach class four hours a week, have office hours two hours a week and they’re done and they’re making over $100,000 a year. How about we make them take on a few more classes? How about they do a little more work? How about they do a 30-hour week, plus office hours, plus some writing.
You know, I know there’ll be wailing, you know, going on in the system, but these are the decisions that have to be made and that I would encourage the higher education system to do.
But you’re right. I’m focusing on 2,000 within the core part, you know, where there’s about 22,000, 23,000 employees right now. These were added during a recession. They shouldn’t have been and I think it’s time that we reverse that.
Warner: On education reform, you support a package of reforms passed by the legislature last year to link student performance to teacher tenure.
Warner: You’ve mentioned in various speeches and debates giving parents and students more choice, charter schools, private schools. Within the confines of regular public schools, what is the next step in reform?
Maes: Boy, if I had the answers, someone would have probably had them before me. I think that Senate Bill 191 was a nice first step in public school reform.
Warner: And that is, essentially, the teacher tenure bill.
Maes: Teacher tenure and accountability, which-- it’s not a perfect bill and it’s not going to solve the problems, but it’s a first step of sending a clear message that we are not going to allow failing teachers to fail our children and failing teachers must exit the system and create a great opportunity for a new teacher to come in and bring new talent and fresh perspectives to stimulate what’s going on in that classroom and then not cheat our children, but give our children a real opportunity.
So I like Senate Bill 191. They give them two years to fail, not just one. Trust me, in the private sector you’re not given that much time. So you’re given two years to turn it around if you’re having a hard time. Otherwise, it’s time to probably find a new career and that’s not a bad thing.
I think just choice and competition is a simple concept. We didn’t-- you did not mention home schooling. I’m a big fan of home schooling, as well. We don’t home school, but we have a lot of friends who do and I want to protect and encourage home schooling, as well, as a choice.
So if the public school system feels that pressure, if they feel like they’re going to lose students if they don’t produce, then they’ve got to produce a better product and that finally brings us, also, to vouchers. I think it’s time that we got serious about vouchers to, again, create competition within the system and especially for the inner-city kids, the ones who are getting cheated the most. Let them choose where that money goes.
Warner: On home schooling, that works really well for a family that has a parent who can stay home.
Warner: It’s less of an option in places where parents are working multiple jobs.
Maes: Absolutely. Well, again, I mean, no one’s going to home school if the parent doesn’t want to do it. I mean, that’s such a personal decision within the family. I remember my wife and I having our first and saying, well, what do we think about home schooling and she rolled her eyes so far up in her head that you couldn’t even see them any more. She had no desire.
If a parent doesn’t have the desire, they’re not going to do it.
Warner: Let’s talk, just briefly, about Amendment 63. This is an effort to stop the implementation of federal healthcare reform to Colorado.
Warner: How are you voting on that, may I ask?
Maes: I did not sign the petition and I really need to read the language of it to decide how I’m going to vote. I really haven’t paid a lot of attention to that amendment. I will say I oppose Obamacare and I’m very concerned about, you know, the projected $800 million of unfunded liability that’s going to land on the state of Colorado over the next four years and I think that, you know, the general theme of 63 is probably something I would support, but I haven’t read the language yet.
Warner: Specifically to what you call Obamacare, there are some changes that have already rolled out, the idea that children can’t be discriminated against for insurance if they have a preexisting condition.
Warner: That will, eventually, apply to everyone, adults as well.
Warner: That adult children can stay on their parents’ insurance longer, the idea of ending the practice of recession where people are dropped from their insurance. Are those specifics that you oppose within the package?
Maes: No. I don’t necessarily oppose any of those. What I oppose is the federal government telling us we have to consume a product. That’s what I oppose about it. I think we all, even conservative Republicans, say we’ve got a problem with health insurance/healthcare in our country and having a lot of people uninsured that shouldn’t be uninsured.
But what we don’t want is Washington dictating us that we have to consume a product. That’s unconstitutional. So some of these solutions are necessary, but how come we can’t, perhaps, make that happen within the private sector and make private companies accommodate these things and help them understand that they’re not going to sell their product if they don’t give us the right solution?
And, ultimately, government may have to step in somewhere to make them do it but to tell me I have to purchase a product is unconstitutional.
Warner: Doesn’t the federal government tell us a lot of things, like, listen, a portion of your paycheck is going to go to Social Security.
Warner: This doesn’t come so much from the federal government, but you drive a car, you need to have insurance.
Maes: Right. Well, those are state laws and there’s a reason for that. I’m going to cause harm to somebody else and there’s a lot of reasons why we need auto insurance, but health insurance is something that-- it’s just always been something we didn’t have to purchase, but you’re also bringing up-- I mean, you’re opening a Pandora’s Box. There’s a lot of things the federal government has gotten into over the last, you know, 50, 70 years that they shouldn’t be in.
Warner: But let’s zoom in on the “cause harm.” Because that’s what you’re saying when driving and then having auto insurance. The idea is, if you don’t have insurance, you show up to the hospital, everybody else pays. That is a harm that is caused.
Maes: Well, and the system is designed to absorb that, though, right now. I mean, oddly enough, we already have a healthcare solution. Anybody can go in anywhere — well, not anywhere, but most cities have places where someone can go, even if they don’t have health insurance, like Denver Health — and they’re going to be taken care of.
Warner: It’s often the emergency room and you’re paying for that in your premiums.
Maes: Right, which isn’t, you know, the best way for us to do it. You know, there’s a-- I just visited a wonderful little solution in Salida, of all places, and they’re part of something called ClinicNET, if I remember the name right, and it’s a non-profit solution for people without health insurance. And they can go in for general healthcare, not emergencies, but preventive care or a cold or a flu or at least some kind of diagnostic with a minimal to almost non-existent co-pay and then if they have to be referred into the official system, they can be.
So here’s a non-profit organization who’s created a healthcare solution that doesn’t make me have to buy health insurance that allows uninsured people to go into and get general, basic healthcare. These are creative solutions.
But for the government to make me purchase it, it’s unconstitutional.
Warner: What happens if those people get cancer and what happens if those people have something that’s a little more costly than--?
Maes: Well, hopefully they’re going to work their way through this system to where they can have a job. Most of these folks are under-employed or they’re unemployed and they’re struggling with their finances, so they can’t afford it, but hopefully they can move that person through a social program or an employment program that will get them to the point where they have health insurance.
If they get cancer or it’s a catastrophic event, the system is going to absorb it.
Warner: Let’s get back a bit to the political landscape. If you receive less than 10% of the vote, the Republicans will be designated a minor party in Colorado.
Maes: Right, right.
Warner: And according to the Denver Post, as a major party, Republicans can appear on the primary ballot, even if they’re unopposed. Officially, that means they’re running in two elections, the primary and the general, and they can raise money for both. As a minor party, unopposed candidates wouldn’t appear on the primary ballot, so they’d only be running in the general election.
Warner: And could only raise money for that campaign.
Warner: You’ve hovered in the mid-teens in many polls. If you drop below 10% what does that mean for your party?
Maes: Well, it means what you just said and the reality is, this is just rhetoric. This is political rhetoric out during campaign season. It makes for good media. It makes for good press. I absolutely refuse to believe that I or any Republican candidate would receive less than 10% of the vote. There are 900,000 registered Republicans out there and I assure there isn’t a Republican candidate that wouldn’t get the 10%.
Warner: We’re ending these conversations with a question about stress.
Warner: This is a job that will have its fair share of it. How do you deal with stress? What do you do? Where do you go?
Maes: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve got a lot more gray hair in just the last 18 months, I can tell you that. (laughter).
Stress — you know, there’s just-- there’s not a lot of time to deal with it, believe it or not, depending on your campaign style. I mean, we’re going all day, just about every day, even seven days a week. I can’t tell you the last day I had a whole day off. We’re always at something.
Warner: And a similar pace might carry over into the executive’s chair.
Maes: You know, I’ve been told that campaigning is worse than being in the actual chair, but we’ll see how that works out.
To answer your question, you know, I’ve never been bashful about being a man of faith and prayer is definitely one way I deal with it. Sometimes I, contrary to the fun folks have had with about bicycling, I do mountain bike and so if I get some spare time I like to take a ride in the morning. We have a beautiful trail near our home where there’s a herd of elk and a lot of wildlife that I see when I go out, especially in the fall. So biking is good.
If I can squeeze in a hike, I’ll do that. But there’s very little time for any of that right now. So sometimes it’s just, maybe, listening to some music or reading a book, you know, while I’m in a car to try to get my mind off of things.
Warner: You mentioned the bicycles. You made some comments about the B-cycle program in Denver, which is--
Maes: I shouldn’t have brought that up again, should I?
Warner: Well, you did and it’s fair territory now. This idea that it was part of a kind of U.N. plot or--
Warner: What did you mean about this borrowable, loaned bicycle program in Denver?
Maes: Yeah, what I was talking about is a program called ICLEI communities for sustainability and this was a failed U.N. program. They tried to introduce it at the United Nations level and then a group of people spearheaded it to introduce it through the mayors of our United States but many people who believe in strong constitutional rights and personal freedoms feel that this is threatening them.
I mean-- as a matter of fact, I just talked with a gentleman out in Montezuma County who told me about this over a year ago and even I-- when I listened to him, I said, oh, I’m looking for some black helicopters here somewhere. You know, what’s he saying doesn’t make sense to me and it seemed kind of, you know, conspiracy-based kind of things. And, of course, that’s what the media did when I said it.
But then we did some homework on it and that’s what I encourage your listeners to do. Rather than, you know, people making fun of this conversation, I have a lot of constituents who are very concerned about it and are very opposed to it.
Warner: For fear that the U.N. is trying to undermine sovereignty, or--?
Maes: That the mayors of our cities are following a U.N. — you know, we go back to Copenhagen and global warming and, again, there’s a lot of conservatives out there who completely disagree with this whole line of thought and these policies.
Warner: Dan Maes, thanks very much.
Maes: Sure, thank you.