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Talking double whammies and 800-pound gorillas




Jeffrey Campos, president and CEO, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver

Joe Garcia, the former president of Colorado State University-Pueblo and now Colorado's lieutenant governor, warned of the double whammy faced by college students: incurring higher debt loads as students, having a hard time finding jobs as graduates.

"The answer (to budget cuts) has been to simply charge more for tuition," said Garcia, one of seven panelists Wednesday at a breakfast event dubbed the Legislative Leadership Preview hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver. "We are incrementally moving toward privatization of all our public institutions. We have to ask ourselves: Is that really what we want?"

Two weeks earlier, Gov. John Hickenlooper tabbed his lieutenant governor for double duty, naming Garcia executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Ultimately, Garcia told the audience at the Westin Downtown Denver, the solution to ensuring higher-education opportunities for Coloradans rests with rebuilding the economy, "so that we're generating more revenue, and higher education isn't constantly starved."

The question on how to increase funding for higher education was one of several put to the seven panelists during a discussion that lasted only 25 minutes once the introductions were finished.
Other topics: how to lessen the burden of health-care insurance on employers; how government can create more public-private partnerships; how to limit regulations on small businesses to enable them to hire more; and whether Colorado should enact an "Arizona-style" illegal immigration law.

Nobody said yes to the Arizona question, but along with the no's that garnered applause, some responses were rather nuanced. A couple panelists cited as encouraging President Obama's coverage of the subject during his State of the Union address the previous night.

"The issue is a real one, and it is unfortunate that the federal government has put states in a position where individual states have had to deal with this in 50 different ways," said Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, a Republican who represents the Highlands Ranch area. "I thought the President's remarks last night on this question of illegal immigration struck a chord that had not been struck in Washington, D.C., since the Reagan administration.

"If the President, Republicans in the House, Democrats in the Senate, can come together on immigration reform, he will have done this nation and our state a great service," McNulty said. "I appreciate the fact that he took the time to recognize the 800-pound gorilla in the room."
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Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor is the editor of ColoradoBiz magazine. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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