U.S. Representative Scott Tipton (R) and Democratic 3rd Congressional District candidate Sal Pace held their first debate last night in Alamosa.
Courier photo by Ruth Heide
ALAMOSA — Although candidates Scott Tipton and Sal Pace agreed on several major issues during their first debate last night, the two clashed on a few hot-button issues such as the Affordable Care Act, which incumbent U.S. Representative Tipton, a Republican, has voted to repeal and Pace, a Democrat, supports.
The Adams State University veterans club, a nonpartisan organization helping veterans transition to civilian life, hosted the first Tipton-Pace debate in Alamosa, and Valley Courier Publisher Keith Cerny moderated the event.
The two candidates for the 3rd Congressional District are scheduled for another debate in September in Grand Junction.
For the most part, the Alamosa debate was civil, with few verbal punches thrown between the candidates.
The two candidates agreed that: more services should be provided for military veterans; the Environmental Protection Agency has over-extended its authority and should be reigned in; the Second Amendment right to bear arms should be protected; education, jobs and small businesses should be legislative priorities; and military expansion in the Piñon Canyon area would be a bad idea.
On veteran issues
Tipton and Pace both agreed veterans should not have to travel hundreds of miles for health care because they live where there is either no VA clinic or one that is not able to provide for all their needs. Pace said the VA should coordinate with local medical clinics to provide services to veterans, as well as providing mobile rural clinics. Tipton agreed that veterans should be taken care of and said in the state U.S. House of Representatives he had voted for measures to do that. For example, he supports the Healthy Veterans Act that requires the VA to contract with local hospitals and doctors to provide quality medical care for veterans on a case by case basis.
Regarding the GI Bill changes that have negatively affected veterans (for example penalizing them for receiving scholarships), Tipton said the congress before he was elected made those changes, and he is working to correct that with current legislation.
“This is a promise that must be fulfilled,” he said.
Pace said it inexcusable for a veteran to be penalized in his educational benefits if he or she receives a scholarship.
“We have to go back to Washington and change that law,” he said.
Pace recommended four years educational benefits in
the GI Bill rather than the current three.
Regarding Piñon Canyon, which had been proposed for military training, Pace said he was proud of a bipartisan bill he led in the state house to make it harder for the federal government to take that land. Tipton said he stood up for private property rights pertaining to this issue at the federal level. He added that military personnel told him they do not need Piñon Canyon for training.
On energy issues
Both candidates agreed the nation should use the “all of the above” approach to supplying its energy needs but conveyed some differences in their views on the subject.
Pace said he was proud of his legislation requiring a greater percentage of public utilities’ power to come from renewable energy. He said Tipton had not supported Vestas wind generation in Colorado that was providing jobs.
“You picked a winner and a loser when you voted against Vestas, you voted against wind and you voted against renewable energy,” Pace told Tipton.
Tipton said Pace picked a winner and loser when he required the American people to pay higher utility bills to accommodate renewable energy mandates.
Tipton said when the president is talking about offshore drilling in Brazil, he is taking jobs away from the U.S.
“Let’s drill on American soil, create American energy and be able to get Americans back to work,” Tipton said.
On wildfire prevention
Discussion regarding measures to prevent wildfires heated up over the proposed
Farm Bill. After Tipton said he introduced Healthy Forest Management Act legislation that received bipartisan support to address beetle killed forests, Pace said Congress could have done that last week if it had passed the Farm Bill, which includes forest health language, instead of voting to go home on recess for five weeks.
Tipton said the House of Representatives is not on recess, and as a member of the ag committee he pushed for the Farm Bill to move forward.
On budgets and business
Tipton said with a $15.8 trillion deficit in this country, the minute a child is born, that child owes $50,000.
“We need to find ways to reduce the size of government and reduce spending,” Tipton said.
He said he voted for a balanced budget amendment and would continue to fight for that.
Pace disagreed with the cuts Tipton voted for in that balanced budget legislation, particularly cuts in Medicare. Pace said he was proud of the balanced budget Colorado legislators passed by a nearly unanimous margin and said legislators in Washington D.C. need to do the same thing.
Tipton said he did not hear Pace giving any ideas about how to cut the federal debt, and Pace said he hadn’t heard any from Tipton either. Pace said everything needs to be laid on the table when it comes to budget cuts, which is what state legislators had to do in Colorado. Tipton said people have to be willing to come to the table for that to happen.
Pace said Tipton was just blaming the other side, but both sides need to come together to address this challenge.
On health care
Tipton said he voted to repeal the president’s health care act because he believes it is hard on senior citizens, for one thing, and he had promised senior citizens he would stand up for their health care. He said a study of current physicians found that 84 percent of them were considering retiring in 2014 when the health care act is fully implemented, and many businesses are afraid of hiring more employees because of the mandated health care provisions. One business that hires people who are handicapped in Pueblo may have to close down entirely if it does not get a waiver from the healthcare act mandates, Tipton said.
He said the country needs affordable and accessible health care, but the president’s plan is not it.
Pace questioned how many times it was going to take Tipton unsuccessfully voting against this act to realize it is passed already.
“I don’t think the Affordable Care Act is perfect,” Pace said, but he added he believed changes that needed to be made to it could be designed in a bipartisan manner, just like the state legislators did when they created the healthcare exchange for Colorado.
Pace said no one should go bankrupt or die in poverty because of medical costs, which is what happened to his aunt in the past year.