Congressional representatives react to protest

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— Protesters at Wednesday's Tax Day Tea Party at the Moffat County Courthouse said they were hopeful their political leaders would listen to their concerns about big government.

Two of Moffat County's three federal legislators - Rep. John Salazar and Sen. Mark Udall, Democrats - said they were glad to see citizens in Moffat County and across Colorado show they are politically active.

"Senator Udall believes it's important for people to exercise their freedom of speech and for people to voice their opinions about what they believe their government should do for them," said Tara Trujillo, Udall's communications director in Washington, D.C.

Udall agrees with the protesters who came out against wasteful spending and has instituted personal policies restricting budget earmarks, she said.

Last year, the senator took a one-year moratorium on accepting any earmark requests, and this year he will start a new policy to only accept requests from public entities, Trujillo said.

"That's your state government, your local government and your higher education, as long as it's publicly funded," she said.

Udall also joined a bipartisan group of moderate senators who worked together to cut $73 billion in spending out of the recovery bill passed in February, Trujillo added.

On taxes, he wants to end the marriage tax penalty and extend the $1,000 tax credit on federal income tax, she said.

Salazar said he also was happy to see Moffat County residents expressing themselves.

"It's good that people in Moffat County came out to voice their concerns," Salazar said. "It's a very important part of the process, and it's why we're the country we are today."

He added he felt the same way as the protesters in a lot of respects but feels the country needs to explore new options to pull itself out of the recession.

"Like many of (the protesters), I am a fiscal conservative," the congressman said. "I did not support the bank bailout package because I don't think it had the reform or oversight that it needed. But, the economic reality we're presented with now does demand that some action be taken."

Sen. Michael Bennet, also a Colorado Democrat, declined to comment for this story but did speak about national issues and the upcoming federal budget during a visit Tuesday in Craig.

Stories on Bennet's views can be found in Wednesday's Daily Press or at www.craigdailypress.com.

Moffat County's state and local politicians were divided about their support.

State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, said he will back the protests as a state legislator.

"There were a lot of various perspectives voiced, for sure, but I think the single united element is to restrict the growth of government," White said.

That means lower taxes, less regulations and less government interference in people's lives, he added.

White was unsure whether the protests will do much good, however.

"I think it's unlikely, but I'm willing to help," he said. "It's difficult to change the system. It'd be difficult to see the kind of systemic change in line with what the Tea Party protests are asking for."

Until the 2010 general election, White added.

At the state level, the Legislature cannot lower taxes immediately, he said. Revenue fell 8 percent from last year, and until that trend reverses, state officials can't lower taxes without major cuts in services.

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner was the only one of three commissioners who did not attend Wednesday's protest at the courthouse. She said she was at a meeting in Steamboat Springs at the time.

"As a commissioner, I'm paying close attention to what size our government is and how it can best help our citizens," Danner said. "I will continue to work my best to make sure we have the right services."

Craig Mayor Don Jones also did not attend the demonstration, but he said he was glad to see local residents become active.

He hopes the community can keep that enthusiasm.

"I wish more people would turn out to vote than when we have a protest," Jones said.

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