Apparently Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former oil-and-gas executive Bob Schaffer didn’t get the party-line memo on Amendment 52 before Monday night’s debate with his Democratic opponent, Congressman Mark Udall.
During a lightning-round of questions at the University of Denver, both candidates seeking to replace retiring Sen. Wayne Allard were asked how they would vote on some of the key questions on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Udall adroitly answered “no” on 52, which keeps the state’s oil-and-gas severance tax at the same low rate (compared to neighboring states), but dedicates those funds to road improvements, specifically along the I-70 corridor. The amendment was put forward by two Republican state lawmakers, and critics claim it’s meant to confuse voters and provide an alternative to Amendment 58.
Udall quickly followed up with a “yes” on 58. Amendment 58 would eliminate property tax breaks that the oil-and-gas industry has enjoyed since the ’70s, raising the oil-and-gas severance tax to 5 percent and generating about $320 million a year for college scholarships, alternative energy projects, wildlife habitat protection and infrastructure improvements in impacted areas.
Schaffer said he was “unfamiliar” with Amendment 52, and asked for the question to be repeated. When a description was provided again, he tersely answered “no.”
Other Republicans, including state Senate candidate Al White, are leery of 52, saying a much more comprehensive approach to transportation funding needs to be taken. The increasingly conservative Club 20 lobbying group that represents the Western Slope first supported 52 then pulled that support because of too much focus on I-70 and the potential impact to funding for critical water projects.