Colorado Congressional District 2 race: George Leing, Jared Polis on the issues

Photo: Jared Polis, George LeingRepublican George Leing is challenging incumbent Jared Polis in Colorado's Second Congressional District. The district covers Boulder, Fort Collins, Loveland, Vail and some northwestern suburbs of Denver.

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The candidates answered the following questions about issues they may face.

Do you want the Affordable Care Act to stay in place and possibly have minor changes, or do you want to completely overhaul or eliminate the ACA?
Jared Polis (Democrat)All Americans should have access to high-quality, affordable health care. There are many improvements to be made, but returning to a system we know didn’t work and to allow double-digit rate increases every year would be a proven recipe for failure. I support eliminating the medical device tax and offsetting that cost by closing loopholes for oil and gas companies—a bill I introduced last Congress. I would also like to pave the way for increased competition between carriers across state lines, which would decrease premiums. 
George Leing (Republican)I favor repealing the ACA. It does not work as promised, and I am troubled by the promise of the government to guarantee the profits of insurance companies. I believe in a free market where insurance companies compete, and with price transparency to empower Americans to make their own educated choices. These would lead to lower costs and put the patient first.
What can be done to shore up Medicare and Social Security?
Jared Polis (Democrat)We must ensure that Medicare and Social Security are sound for the next generation. Ensuring solvency to the Social Security program will take a collective, bipartisan effort. That’s why I cosponsor the Social Security Commission Act, which would establish a bipartisan Social Security commission to create recommendations to Congress with the goal of bringing 75-year solvency to the Social Security program. One idea that I believe is worth exploring is raising the cap on the amount of payroll tax that is subject to Social Security withholding. Like Social Security, Medicare is a vital safety net that must be protected and strengthened in order to meet our commitment to providing seniors with the services and resources they need for a healthy retirement. Nearly 50 million Americans throughout the country – including more than 600,000 in Colorado – rely on Medicare for basic services like preventative health screenings, prescription medication coverage, and durable medical equipment. Rather than kick the can down the road for future generations to deal with, I support sensible reforms to reduce healthcare costs across the board, allowing us to preserve our commitment to seniors and the permanently disabled while ensuring that our kids and grandkids can enjoy the same Medicare benefits available now. 
George Leing (Republican)The Medicare program could be shored up through reforms in healthcare that lead to savings in underlying medical costs. With respect to Social Security, we can work to balance out costs across generations, with the objective that no one generation has to carry the burden of other generations and ensure that each citizen is able to receive the money they paid in to the system.
What role should the federal government play in regulating oil and gas extraction?
Jared Polis (Democrat)The Clean Air and Clean Water Act are the most important protections we have for our health and safety. Unfortunately, hydraulic fracturing is exempt from these critical regulations. In Congress, I have introduced and co-sponsored two bills, the BREATHE Act and the FRESHER Act, that close these loopholes within the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. I am also a sponsor of the FRAC Act, a bill that mandates disclosure of the toxic chemicals that are used in hydraulic fracturing. These are just some of the steps the federal government should be making in oil and gas extractions. On a state level, I’m a strong proponent of local control, which would empower local communities to decide if and how hydraulic fracturing takes place in their communities. 
George Leing (Republican)The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) is nationally recognized in its safe regulation and practices regarding energy development. I believe this area of natural resources should be regulated on a state level and do not support further federal regulation.
Do you support changes to the Endangered Species Act? If so, what?
Jared Polis (Democrat)I support the Endangered Species Act and believe it is one of the most federally important environmental bills. Importantly, this seminal legislation has brought hundreds of species like the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction. While I do not agree with recent partisan bills considered by the U.S. House of Representatives that overhaul and gut the substance of the Endangered Species Act, I do believe that there may be opportunities to modernize the 40-year old legislation through balanced, bipartisan conversations. 
George Leing (Republican)I do not advocate any specific changes to the Endangered Species Act at this time.
What should the federal government do about climate change?
Jared Polis (Democrat)Yes, climate change is one of the most challenging environmental issues facing our generation and future generations. We all have a vested interest in our world’s climate and Congress must take action. We must work to implement clean energy solutions and reduce carbon emissions. I will continue to co-sponsor comprehensive climate change legislation that address the short and long term problems to reduce global warming pollution and provides communities with the tools to combat and stop the impacts of climate change.  
George Leing (Republican)The scientific community believes climate change is a threat, and I want to use my experience in renewables to promote a true “all of the above” energy solution to reduce our carbon footprint by making the renewable energy industry a larger part of our national energy options. 

What can the federal government do to boost Colorado's economy?
Jared Polis (Democrat)Before being elected to Congress I started several companies including and I have taken my experience as a businessman to Congress to advocate for policies to build our economy from the middle out. To move Colorado forward together, we need an economy that rewards innovation and ingenuity—building a ladder of opportunity so that everyone has a chance to succeed. Helping small businesses grow and thrive by removing barriers to raising capital, helping train a high-quality workforce, and a business climate that is welcoming to entrepreneurs who want to turn their ideas into great Colorado companies. It’s time to reform our tax code—by limiting deductions and eliminating special interest loopholes so we can reduce tax rates. A simple and fair tax code will ensure predictability for businesses and individuals.  
George Leing (Republican)We must reduce the burdensome regulations from D.C. that make it difficult for businesses to start and to grow. I want to use my business experience to simplify the tax code and reduce unnecessary and duplicative regulations to help get our economy growing again.
What should the federal government do to address growing inequality in America, and in Colorado?
Jared Polis (Democrat)In Congress I am focused on enacting polices that expand opportunity to all and levels the playing field for working families. One of those polices is tax reform. It is time for Congress to put their differences aside and clean up our broken tax code to make it simpler and ensure everybody pays a fair share. Long term we must strengthen our nation’s education system and workforce training programs. We need to increase access to high-quality early education programs to make sure that all children are prepared for kindergarten. We also need to increase investments in our K-12 education system, combined with meaningful reforms that strengthen access and quality. Moreover, a postsecondary education is becoming more and more important for achieving success in the workplace. All Americans deserve the opportunity and freedom to have a good paying job, savings for retirement, and access to an affordable education. 
George Leing (Republican)Growing inequality is a major issue. I believe the growth in part-time work due to the impacts of the Affordable Care Act will exacerbate the situation. We must foster an environment where people can start businesses and pursue the American Dream. I believe the federal government is holding us back.
What should the federal government do to lower the child poverty rate in Colorado?
Jared Polis (Democrat)Ensuring that all children have the resources and opportunities they need to grow and succeed is one of my top priorities in Congress. Poverty creates disadvantages across any number of areas for children, including healthcare, education, and future employment. High-quality early education for working families is one of the best investments we can make to lower the child poverty rate. Quality childcare is beyond reach for millions of working families and is fast becoming an unbearable financial burden for the middle class. The federal government should partner with states like Colorado to provide high-quality, affordable early education for more families. I was severely disappointed that Congress voted to cut SNAP benefits, something I voted against. We must protect nutrition programs that help millions of families fight hunger and provide a crucial safety net for the families who are most in need.
George Leing (Republican)I support reforming our welfare system to make it easier for families to graduate from welfare. Currently, when families cross a certain income threshold, they lose all support and stay stuck in poverty. I propose reforming the system so that families may gradually work their way off of benefits, create real savings, and become independent. This will help families advance economically and thus reduce the child poverty rate.
Do you support raising the federal minimum wage?
Jared Polis (Democrat)Yes. Wages for middle- and working-class folks have barely budged over the last decade while profits for the wealthiest Americans have soared, and no statistic illustrates this trend better than the federal minimum wage. The cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years, yet the minimum wage has remained stagnant at just $7.25 an hour since 2009. In fact, adjusting for inflation, minimum-wage workers are actually paid 30 percent less today than they were in 1968. A wage of $7.25 per hour equates to a yearly salary of just $15,080 for a full-time worker. That is simply not enough for families to cover basic living expenses like groceries, housing, and doctors’ visits – let alone save for retirement.
George Leing (Republican)I do not support an increase in the current minimum wage rate because, though it can help certain workers, it will make it harder for others to get started and result in fewer job opportunities.
What areas of federal spending should be increased? What should be cut?
Jared Polis (Democrat)We must ensure we can compete in today’s globally connected world. America can only compete by providing strong investment in our future. We must continue to invest in our innovation and research fields, which means strong federal support for Colorado’s labs and government research. I also believe that Congress must stop procrastinating on deficit reduction and take meaningful action to restore our nation's fiscal integrity. I support and have led initiatives eliminating government waste by getting rid of programs that don't work and streamlining ones that could operate more efficiently. I have offered several amendments to wisely cut our bloated defense programs without compromising our national security edge while ending government subsidies to the oil and gas industry.  
George Leing (Republican)With a $500 billion deficit scheduled to grow, and $17.7 trillion in debt, we need major reductions in government spending. There are few, if any, areas where funding should be increased from current levels.
What changes should be made to the federal tax code?
Jared Polis (Democrat)I support comprehensive tax reform that makes our tax code fairer, simpler, and more equitable for both individuals and businesses. We cannot continue to have a tax code that encourages businesses to move overseas and holds back our recovering economy. Right now, our tax code requires businesses to spend millions of dollars on lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists to navigate the ocean of rules, regulations, and loop holes that are in the tax code. This is money that could be invested in creating jobs, research and development, or building new facilities in their community. I strongly support corporate tax reform, lowering the tax rate that companies pay from one of the highest in the world at 35% to a more reasonable 25-28%, while closing special interest loopholes.
George Leing (Republican)We must simplify the federal tax code, particularly the corporate tax structure. I support reducing the current federal corporate tax rate, which is the highest among the OECD member countries. Also, we need to reform the current taxation of corporate income on a worldwide basis, which results in large amounts of money remaining parked outside the U.S.
Do you support Common Core standards? Why or why not? 
Jared Polis (Democrat)The states are responsible for setting K-12 academic standards. While the federal government has not and should not require states to adopt the Common Core, Colorado has chosen to adopt the Colorado Academic Standards, which can help provide our students with the skills they need to succeed in college, career, and life. It is important that during the transition to the Common Core, teachers have the supports they need to faithfully adopt the new standards, and that parents have information to help their children meet these benchmarks.
George Leing (Republican)I do not support the Common Core Standards as a general matter. I am troubled by the proposed data collection on our children, and the one-size-fits-all approach to education. That being said, I believe in local control in education, and the ability of local school boards to make curriculum decisions -- thus, they would be free to adopt Common Core if that was their local decision.
Do you believe adults who came to this country illegally should have a path to citizenship? Why or why not? 
Jared Polis (Democrat)Undocumented immigrants living in the darkness of the underground economy simply want to work, raise a family, contribute to our economy and pay taxes. When we deport noncriminal immigrants, we do nothing to make our nation more secure or strengthen our economy. More than a year ago, the New Democrat Coalition Immigration Task Force, which I co-chair, released detailed principles on comprehensive immigration reform, which included a pathway to citizenship. Last October, I was proud to stand with Democrats and Republicans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill, H.R. 15. This bill creates American jobs, ensures we are more competitive in a global economy, lowers the deficit and reflects our values as Americans. If the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives will not act on comprehensive immigration reform, the president can and must bring an end to deportations of noncriminal detainees.
George Leing (Republican)I do not support blanket amnesty and believe that we need real border security before we reform our immigration system. As the son of immigrants, I believe that legal immigration can work, but we must respect our laws. However, we must treat all people with dignity and look for a way for those here illegally to come out of the shadows.
Should marijuana be legalized across the country?
Jared Polis (Democrat)Yes. I am the author of H.R. 499—federal legislation that would treat marijuana similar to alcohol. 
George Leing (Republican)Although I personally do not support marijuana, I believe that the federal government should respect the decision of the voters of Colorado. Under the 10th Amendment of the federal Constitution, each state should have the ability to decide if they want to allow for marijuana and the matter should not be a federal decision.
What is your stance on same-sex marriage?
Jared Polis (Democrat)The marriage equality movement has made amazing progress over the last year, and I look forward to the day when same-sex couples have the freedom to marry in all 50 states. As Americans, we should aspire to uphold the principles of equality and individual freedom and let loving couples get married. Eliminating discriminatory same-sex marriage bans and providing loving gay couples with legal recognition of their lifelong commitments to each other is consistent with both our American values and the values that marriage celebrates.
George Leing (Republican)All couples, regardless of gender, which desire to be recognized as a permanently united couple, should be afforded the same basket of rights by the government. Other than this, I believe that government should not play a role in defining marriage.
Should the federal government impose new restrictions on the sale or possession of firearms?
Jared Polis (Democrat)All levels of government have a responsibility to work to end violence in our communities. As we re-evaluate our firearms policies, we must ensure that the federal government upholds its commitment to preserve Americans’ Second Amendment. I support legislation to improve funding for background check systems, strengthen background checks, and improve the tracking of gun-sale receipts so that officials are better enabled to trace weapons that are used in crimes or resold to arms traffickers. All of these are reforms that we could implement without creating any type of national gun registry, which would endanger the privacy rights of lawful gun owners – the overwhelming majority of whom buy weapons solely for protection or sport – without meaningfully improving public safety. We must also take steps to ensure that kids have access to opportunities and jobs and do not turn to crime or join gangs out of desperation. To this end, one of my top priorities in Congress has been improving our education system. In addition, Congress must work to increase and improve and mental health resources. By supporting efforts to install more highly-trained counselors in our schools and to provide the resources that parents, families, teachers and employers need, we can help those who suffer from mental illness while reducing the kinds of mass shootings to which our nation has sadly grown accustomed.
George Leing (Republican)I do not support new restrictions on the sale or possession of firearms.
Do you support or oppose legalized abortion? Are there any exceptions?
Jared Polis (Democrat)I am pro-choice and support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions without interference from the government. There is no more personal decision than what an individual does with his or her body. I believe that politicians should not have control over such a decision.
George Leing (Republican)I believe the government should largely stay out of the issue of abortion. This is an individual's decision which has been legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. I am opposed to late term abortions, and believe that federal tax dollars should not be used to fund abortion procedures. Personally, I am grateful for the essential role played by groups which provide critical support to women who find themselves faced with an unexpected pregnancy.
Should the U.S. be helping arm Syrian rebels to take power away from ISIL--the Islamic extremist group? Why or why not? 
Jared Polis (Democrat)I oppose training and arming Syrian rebels. I am not confident that the people we train and arm will help keep us safe, and I fear that in some cases they might even cooperate with our enemies including ISIL and in other ways act to undermine American and humanitarian interests. We recently engaged in a similar but far larger eight-year, $25 billion effort to train and equip Iraq’s military, and yet many of the weapons and supplies that Americans paid for have now wound up in the hands of ISIL. The Iraqi army that we invested in building has lost control of large portions of Iraq. I am not convinced that same strategy will succeed. 
George Leing (Republican)I have not seen the intelligence briefings but am hesitant to think that arming rebels will lead to peace in this conflict at this time. Many of the ISIL weapons are those we originally provided to Iraqi forces. I think there are better solutions.
What would you do to help this country’s veterans, many of whom have recently returned from war?
Jared Polis (Democrat)With thousands of our citizen-soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is critical that we make their educational, health care, and employment needs a priority. There are close to 400,000 veterans living in Colorado, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure that the federal government is repaying them for their years of service and sacrifice to our nation. The recent revelations about delays and misconduct in our nation’s VA Hospital system – including the outpatient facility in Ft. Collins – have highlighted the need to fix our VA health system so that we are providing all veterans with the quality care to which their service and sacrifice entitle them. I’m proud to cosponsor legislation that would improve transparency in the VA and overhaul the VA health system so that facilities are adequately staffed and accessible to veterans who live in rural and underserved areas. I also support legislation to help veterans access telemedicine services, which have helped folks throughout the country access medical care they would otherwise have to travel hours to receive. We also must provide veterans with better access to workforce training programs that will help them apply their experience in the armed forces toward civilian credentials and certifications that will enable them to find jobs and remain employed. In addition, we must make sure that veterans who enroll in these programs are getting the best possible return on their investment by improving oversight and accountability to ensure that these programs are providing enrollees with the training and resources necessary to achieve the best possible career outcomes. Furthermore, I will continue to advocate for legislation that restores proper cost-of-living increases for veterans’ pensions and oppose future efforts to weaken these crucial benefits.
George Leing (Republican)The process of reform at the VA has begun, but still has a long way to go. I have met with veterans groups, such as the American Legion, and heard terrible stories of delays and waits at the VA. We must support our veterans and I will support reforms to improve the VA.

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