DENVER U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said Wednesday that he could vote to raise the limit on the national debt as long as Congress enacts substantial spending cuts.
Tipton, R-Cortez, said he is looking for cuts of at least $100 billion this year.
For me to be able to vote for raising the debt ceiling, we are going to have to be sure we are making substantial cuts, Tipton told a group of Western Slope legislators Wednesday at the state Capitol. We have to slow down not slow down, we have to start reducing the size of the federal government.
Tipton made cutting the government his main campaign theme.
But now that Republicans are in charge of the House, they face a politically tricky vote to raise the $14.3 trillion limit on federal debt. If Congress doesnt raise the debt limit, the country could default on its bond payments and potentially create chaos in the markets.
Tipton blamed previous Congresses for running up the debt and compared the upcoming vote to arriving at a restaurant table and getting stuck with the check just as the other diners were leaving.
Sixteen state legislators quizzed Tipton for more than half an hour on topics ranging from local funding to military training.
Tipton said he is pursuing funds for Jackson Gulch Reservoir in Mancos, as well as a long-delayed Arkansas Valley water project. He also is looking for more Forest Service funds to deal with the bark beetle outbreak that has claimed 4 million acres of trees in Colorado and Wyoming.
But there will be no earmarks for anything this year in the House, Tipton said. And extra bark beetle funding could be hard to find because of the national debt and a drive to cut spending.
In terms of dollars, those are all going to be up in the air, Tipton said of the forest budget.
State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, asked what Tipton was doing about the militarys plans for low-altitude training flights in southern Colorado.
Tipton said he had heard different opinions from ranchers about whether the planes bother cattle, and he wants to convene more community meetings before taking a position.
We dont want to be absolutely adverse to the military at all levels in Colorado, Tipton said.
Schwartz agreed, but added, We dont need to take on more than our share.
Tipton also told state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, that he opposes expanding the Army training ground in Las Animas County and that it wouldnt happen because the Army has no budget for it.
But he did not agree with Paces call for a permanent ban on expansion of the training site.
Your word, saying permanent, may be too restrictive, Tipton said.
Criticism of the military irked state Rep. Larry Liston, a Republican whose Colorado Springs district is dependent on several military bases.
We do have a little thing called national defense, Liston said. The military is in the midst of downsizing, and if you really want to pull the plug on the growth of Colorado, all you need to do is have Fort Carson or one of the other military bases close.
Tipton will sponsor a bill to get the federal government to pay tuition for Native American students at Fort Lewis College, he said in an interview after his talk with legislators.
Fort Lewis President Dene Thomas met with him, and they plan to meet again this year to iron out the bill.
Tipton thinks the bill could pass if he includes a cap on how much the federal government would give Fort Lewis.
Currently, the state government pays for Native American tuition at Fort Lewis. Legislators last year tried to reduce state payments to the college, but they gave up in the face of heavy student opposition.
Tipton also said he would not sponsor a bill to speed a land exchange for the Village at Wolf Creek, a proposed development at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area.
He met the developers, and they told him they are asking the Forest Service for a land exchange, but they have given up earlier plans to get Congress to speed up the process.
It seems like theyre trying to get their hurdles worked out. There will be no legislation, Tipton said.