Bennet: Deficit solution must be bipartisan

American education system is a national emergency, he says

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet told The Durango Herald’seditorial board Monday that America needs a comprehensive plan to lower the federal deficit.

During a stop on his tour through the Western Slope this weekend to highlight Colorado’s natural heritage, memory of fallen soldiers, job creation and economic growth, Bennet told the board a deficit-reduction plan needs to substantially reduce the deficit, demonstrate that everyone is in the fight together, be bipartisan and satisfy capital markets.

But beyond simply reducing the deficit, Bennet said he doesn’t believe the U.S. can grow its way out of the recession because of recent social changes.

“The baby boomers are starting to benefit from entitlement programs, but there’s not enough people paying into it,” he said.

Bennet also said he’s not surprised by the negative reactions to the Medicare overhaul that would privatize the entitlement program, a plan brought forward by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee because it would do nothing for revenue.

“I think it’s absolutely clear that we have to redesign our entitlement programs,” he said.

Bennet’s goal for such programs is to “deliver higher quality at a lower cost.” He said it can’t be privatized; instead, there needs to be fewer fees for service and made sustainable.

The federal deficit and entitlement programs aren’t the only things in shambles, though. Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public School system, called the country’s education system a national emergency.

“I’m sad to say that education is not a high priority for a lot of people,” he said. “It is a high priority for me.”

Improving the education system, Bennet said, starts with retaining and attracting teachers.

After his discussion with the board, Bennet commemorated Memorial Day with the Durango community by attending two services honoring veterans and fallen soldiers. He later held a “Burgers with Bennet” event before traveling to Silverton, Ouray and Delta.

jdahl@durangoherald.com