Sen. Kefalas discusses student debt, marijuana Saturday in Fort Collins

Gina Spoden

The new on-campus stadium, affordable education and marijuana taxes were only a few of the issues discussed by State Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, at a listening session at DazBog Coffee Saturday.

Since his election in 2012, Kefalas, worked actively on health concerns, issues of poverty, education and the environment.

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During the meeting, Kefalas received opposition from community members regarding the new stadium at Colorado State University.

Kefalas said he has been working closely with President Tony Frank in order to ensure students will not be responsible for the financial issues that may come if CSU cannot absorb stadium costs.

A male citizen who wished to remain anonymous argued for an elected CSU Board of Governors rather than the current appointee system. He said the current Board of Governors does not reflect what the people want.

Kefalas said nothing can be changed about the appointee process of the Board of Governors unless further research is done regarding the advantages and disadvantages of making changes to the system.

On issues of student debt, Kefalas said it was concerning that some college students may be attending community colleges and transferring to larger universities after a few years in order to avoid debt.

“It can’t just be about the money, it (has to) be about the quality,” Kefalas said. He discussed how adjunct professors at local community colleges may not be preparing students for the transition to larger universities. He said it is still not easy for credits to transfer.

“In terms of Colorado being a pretty amazing place, quality of life issues — we need to address them,” Kefalas said before discussing reform of the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

TABOR has been a topic of criticism since the early 2000’s due to its limitations on spending and refunds to taxpayers. The issue is hitting the ballot November, which will include allowing the government to keep tax revenue obtained from recreational marijuana.

Kefalas said he supports keeping those taxes.

“When Amendment 64 was passed, voters were clear they wanted (the government) to use those dollars (for the community),” Kefalas said. Rather than having that money distributed across several platforms, he argues that it could be used toward a few long-term goals.

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Kefalas linked the issue back to the TABOR reform, stating that the refund money could be used for education instead. 

Another issue to be addressed in late October is employer-based health insurance. Kefalas is working on a bill that will exempt employers with 100 or less employees from the requirement of providing health insurance. Overall, Kefalas said he wants to move away from employer-based health insurance.

Elaine Branjord, a community member who attended the listening session, said Intiative 20 ColoradoCare is the answer.

“Everybody’s a member, everybody pays in according to their income. … You lose your job, and you still have your insurance,” Branjord said about the citizen’s initiative.

ColoradoCare stems from section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act, which encourages state innovation. In order to be passed, the initiative needs about 100,000 signatures. It is unclear how far the proposal will go.

He ended Saturday by stressing that the issues in Fort Collins and Colorado can only be improved by a continual group effort.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” Kefalas said. “Everything comes at a cost.”

Collegian Reporter Gina Spoden-Johnson can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @gina_spoden5.