Rachel Zenzinger, Candidate For State Senate, District 19
1. Would you support a full repeal of TABOR? If yes, how would you propose achieving success at the ballot? If no, what provisions of it will you support repealing or revising, and how would you propose achieving success at the ballot?
I believe we must address the restrictions that TABOR imposes on the State. TABOR has prevented the State from adequately funding our schools, roads, and so much more. I support any effort that effectively and practically loosens these restrictions to the extent that we can properly fund our education system and rebuild our infrastructure. I have supported efforts to repeal certain aspects of TABOR, for example, I voted for HB19-1257 and HB19-1258, both of which were referred measures to repeal the TABOR cap and reallocate the revenue to transportation and education (also known as Prop CC). Those measures, unfortunately, did not pass. I also voted for SB17-267 which pertained to the Hospital Provider Fee, and also increased the TABOR cap. This provided some additional funding for rural schools and rural transportation, as well as increased the TABOR cap. It was very unpopular among Republicans and organizations such as AFP, but it was critically necessary in order to fund our hospitals, roads, and schools. As a member of the Joint Budget Committee, I am painfully aware of the restrictions TABOR creates for our budget and support any and all efforts to repeal it.
2. Last year, the state legislature passed a bill committing the state to cut climate pollution (from 2005 levels) 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050. What further legislation will you promote in order to achieve those goals, and how will you address vehicle emissions as part of the framework?
More than most states, Colorado depends on its environment – for both economic and quality of life reasons. I am proud to have been a co-sponsor of the bill you reference, Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution in Colorado. It was a significant step forward in doing our part to reduce climate change right here at home. Additionally, I have a 100% lifetime voting record with Conservation Colorado. I will continue to support pro-active and practical legislation that tackles climate change locally and statewide.
3. What is your position on a non-profit single-payer healthcare system or an improved Medicare for All system in Colorado, and how will it help solve our healthcare crisis and the high cost of prescription drugs?
No one should have to choose between financial stability and getting the health care they need. Yet sadly, far too many Coloradans are burdened with that choice––neglecting their health for the sake of their family’s security. I am committed to finding new and innovative solutions to our health care problems, and that includes exploring “Medicaid for All” options. (Medicaid is the state system and Medicare is a Federal program). While I am hopeful the Federal Government will move in this direction, I support policies locally that will help increase competition and drive down insurance costs, as well as increase corporate transparency about prescription drug prices. I am also interested in exploring a Public Insurance Option, protecting the Affordable Care Act, and increasing access to telemedicine. As a member of the Joint Budget Committee, I sponsored several bills that addressed these options.
4. What is your position regarding public schools, including charter schools? What will you do to strengthen our public school system?
I am a teacher and I strongly believe that public education is the backbone of society and must be adequately funded. My main motivation for entering into politics was to address issues affecting public schools. I have carried dozens of bills to address school funding, namely: $22 million dollars for special education funding in the 2019 School Finance Act; the $100 million buy down of the Budget Stabilization Factor in the 2019 Long Bill; and grant programs for teacher shortage, teacher leadership, principal leadership, and more. I served on the Senate Education Committee for two years prior to becoming a member of the Joint Budget Committee. I also served on the School Finance Interim Committee, where we studied the adequacy of our school finance formula and recommended changes. Currently, I am working on an initiative that will address the inequities generated by the interaction of the Gallagher and TABOR amendments. The uniform mill levy bill will establish a uniform mill levy for property owners and will fix an unintended consequence of Colorado’s inflexible tax system. It will also ensure the quality of a child’s education, and the resources that schools can access, don’t depend on where a child lives.
Other legislation that I sponsored that benefitted schools and public education:
- HB17-1201 Science Technology Engineering Math Diploma Endorsement
- SB19-039 Interdistrict Transportation Of Students
- HB18-1193 Extend Advanced Placement Incentives Program
- HB18-1070 Additional Public School Capital Construction Funding
- SB17-123 Seal Of Biliteracy For High School Diplomas
- HB18-1413 Create School Safety Grant Program
- HB20-1128 Educator Education Requirements Special Education
- HB19-1002 Leadership Professional Development For School Principals
- SB19-003 Educator Loan Forgiveness Program
- HB18-1141 Modernize Early Childhood Council Language
- HB20-1125 Eligible Educator Supplies Tax Credit
- HB19-1055 Public School Cap Construction Financial Assistance
- SB20-009 Expand Adult Education Grant Program
- HB20-1260 School Finance Adjustment To 2019-20 Total Program
Regarding charter schools, I believe that we have a fair system that promotes choice and I believe that charter schools are an important part of the educational ecosystem here in Colorado. However, I do not support tax credits for private schools nor do I support vouchers.
5. How does using military force (violence) as the central tenet of our foreign policy affect violence in our communities? What can the legislature do to stem the increased militarism of local police?
I will respectfully decline to answer this question as it does not pertain to state government. However, I support efforts to de-militarize our local law enforcement efforts. For example, as a city councilor, I pushed for the City of Arvada to adopt a Community Policing standard that resulted in decentralizing the Arvada Police Department into local substations where officers live and work in the communities that they police. This effort has increased the positive interactions between our law enforcement and local communities. I also supported efforts to integrate more mental health training into our officer training standards and worked to give our local officers more support systems to deal with trauma and violence.
6. How will you address the needs of the undocumented children who have only known the U.S. as their home country?
As a state legislator, I voted for the ASSET bill that granted in-state tuition for DACA recipients. I also supported their access to the Colorado Opportunity Fund for higher education. This year, I am carrying a bill that will expand the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative. In that bill, we expanded the eligibility criteria to include DACA students as well. I view DACA children as assets to our communities, not liabilities, and support efforts to support them.
7. How will you address affordable housing, attainable housing, and housing for the homeless?
Affordable housing is a preeminent issue in our community. Even with the growing economy, it is profoundly difficult to purchase a home, especially for first-time buyers. This is why I co-sponsored a bill that allocated an additional $5 million per year in affordable housing tax credits. I think there are a number of things we can still do to address the issue, including the use of the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund, addressing construction defects reform, and making investments into programs that would offer first-time homebuyers low-interest loans, grants for seniors and veterans, and additional programs that would aid in addressing high rents and the lack of housing in this rapidly growing state.
8. How will you address the needs of urban and rural communities and how do you see them differing?
I grew up in Western Colorado. I was born in Delta and lived in several small communities before landing in Montrose where I graduated from high school. As a suburban legislator that lives in the Metro area, I bring a unique perspective to the legislature about the very real issues our rural communities face. Often, my urban colleagues do not understand the full impact of their legislation on other areas of the state. Despite our geographic differences, many of the legislative issues we face are the same. For example, affordable housing, school funding, and access to affordable health care are all issues we are facing in Colorado. What is important, to me, is that we address these issues in an equitable manner. I am proud of the fact that the current Senator from Montrose, Don Coram, often refers to me as the “other Senator from Montrose,” because we have worked together as partners in solving issues that impact rural Colorado.
9. Do you support the right of workers, as well as public employees, to organize and engage in collective bargaining?
As the daughter of a plumber and pipefitter, I understand the value of unions and the strength of collective bargaining. I wholeheartedly support the rights of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. I am a co-sponsor of HB20-1153 Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act that will allow state workers to collectively bargain.
10. Do you support legislation to ban private correctional facilities in Colorado?
As a member of the Joint Budget Committee, we had a lengthy conversation about the issues surrounding private prison use. Currently, there are over 4,000 state prisoners held in private facilities in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Corrections runs 20 state-run prisons and also has been affiliated with 7 for-profit prisons in Colorado, of which the state currently contracts with 3 for-profit prisons. Currently, the state of Colorado saves money by utilizing private prisons. The outcomes for prisoners in private prisons versus public prisons are virtually the same. There is no difference in recidivism rates between the two types of facilities. And the treatment and rehabilitation programs are comparable to each other. Therefore, without any evidence to demonstrate why we would make such a drastic change, I cannot support ending private prison use at this time. However, I DO support HB20-1019 which will study the impact of ending the use of private prisons in a responsible way. The study will focus on:
- Evidence-based strategies to stop using private prisons and move individuals into alternative facilities or programs;
- An analysis of the economic impacts on affected communities, including the loss of local tax revenue;
- An analysis of the impact that reducing private prison beds would have on local governments and community-based providers;
- A utilization analysis of all state-operated facilities and all other facilities that can be used for housing inmates;
- An analysis of the effect of releasing sex offenders who are assessed as low risk;
- An analysis of what state-operated facilities and programs may be utilized to keep pace with demand;
- An analysis of the best practices and programs that are necessary for the successful reintegration of offenders, alternatives to incarceration, and recidivism reduction strategies consistent with public safety ;
- An analysis of the feasibility of the department to obtain private prison facilities in Colorado; and
- An analysis of the resources necessary to accomplish the strategies required to transition the state away from private prisons if the decision is made to transition the state away from private prisons.
I feel strongly that these are important questions to ask as we contemplate the phasing out of private prisons. And once we have answers to these questions, I will be open-minded about the possibility of making changes.