Sen. Gardner hears from local business owners

Senator faces reelection battle next year

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U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner heard from business owners and local elected officials who told the lawmaker to make sure the federal government works in citizens' favor.

Gardner's tour in downtown Littleton on June 17 started at Dirt Coffee, where founder Lauren Burgess told the senator that Medicaid is vital for the shop's employees, who are primarily on the autism spectrum or have other intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“Disability is the only minority group that any of us can join,” Burgess told Gardner. “Our world is all about Medicaid.”

Gardner did not respond at length to Burgess, but thanked her for her support for people with disabilities.

Gardner's next stop was Bradford Auto Body, where owner Mickey Kempf told the senator he'd like to see humanity return to Washington.

“Think about what you can do for people, not just Republicans or Democrats,” Kempf said. “Think about how you can work to make sure people are safe and secure.”

Kempf said nearly two-thirds of his shop's business is repairing hail damage, which he said is getting worse in recent years — a problem he said may be partly the result of climate change.

“Climate change is real, and we have to address it without destroying the economy,” Gardner said when asked about Kempf's observation.

Further along Main Street at The Chocolate Therapist, owner Julie Nygard told Gardner her business is feeling the pinch of higher minimum wages.

Colorado's minimum wage, which went from $10.20 an hour to $11.10 an hour on Jan. 1, will cost Nygard an additional $15,000 a year, she said, which she's afraid will wind up passed on to customers.

“I'd like to see tax incentives to offset minimum wage increases,” Nygard said.

Gardner said he hopes to create tax-free savings accounts that small businesses can use to reinvest in themselves, and streamline the process for small business loans.

During a roundtable discussion at Town Hall Arts Center, Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman said she'd like to see the federal government simplify and speed up the process to address transportation projects.

“Nobody wants to go for federal money because we know it means more strings and more slowdown,” Brinkman said of highway expansion projects in the area. “But we have to, because we don't have the money.”

Gardner touted a variety of bills during the roundtable, including efforts to increase participation in STEM education and career and technical education.

Gardner, who faces a slew of Democratic challengers in his 2020 reelection bid, said he remains optimistic he can win Arapahoe County, which he lost by 2 percentage points in 2014 and which voted out several high-profile Republican incumbent county officials in last fall's election.

Colorado has a history of split votes, Gardner said, saying he won his Senate seat the same year Democrat John Hickenlooper was reelected as governor.

“There seems to be an idea that when Democrats win it's permanent, and when Republicans win it's temporary, and I just don't believe that,” Gardner said. “This is a state that sends people of either party to office because they believe they'll work for them.”

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