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Fiscal cliff deal: "Borrowing is economic cocaine," says Dick Lamm

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Former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm is speaking out about the last-minute deal in Washington D.C. to avert a fiscal cliff -- and backing Senator Michael Bennet, who defied his party and a Senate majority to vote "no." Lamm, who is part of the national Campaign to Fix the Debt effort, slams the plan, saying that out-of-control borrowing has become "economic cocaine" in the United States.

"I think that the budgetary situation is nation-threatening," Lamm says. "I think that my generation has really imposed itself greatly on your generation."

The fiscal cliff deal maintains tax cuts for many Americans, but increases rates on the wealthy -- and also delays cuts through sequestration. It overwhelmingly passed in the Senate and after much drama, it was approved by the House, too, with yes votes from prominent Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner.

That means Colorado junior senator Bennet, a Democrat, voted against the White House's compromise plan, while high-ranking GOP officials supported it.

To explain his vote, Bennet released a statement calling Washington the "land of flickering lights" and saying the proposal didn't create a strong enough plan to address the nation's debt. This stance put him at odds with Senator Mark Udall, who voted for the measure in part because the deal maintained a a one-year extension of the Wind Production Tax Credit, which he has been boosting for months

Lamm, a past Colorado governor, says he did not expect Bennet to speak out as he did.

"I was surprised," Lamm says, but adds, "I can absolutely see what he's saying."

Lamm, a co-chair of the Colorado steering committee for the Campaign to Fix the Debt, says, "Michael Bennet is trying better than most...to point out that we are kicking too many cans down the road."

At the same time, Lamm says he recognizes that the position could make things tough for Bennet, who recently began running the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a party fundraising arm.

"He's gonna have some explaining to do," says Lamm. "He's got a reservoir of good will.... As it becomes more and more apparent that we've solved so little of the total problem, it won't hurt him politically. That would be my guess."

Lamm says it's important for elected officials to sometimes stray from party lines.

"Bennet is really working across the aisle," he says. "I'm immensely impressed...with his integrity."

Of the fiscal cliff deal and the nation's debt problem, Lamm says, "I also feel that one of the great challenges of the next twenty years is...how do you make America's expectations realistic?"

Continue for more comments from Lamm and the full campaign statement. According to Lamm, "We are in a position quite often of the little boy that cried wolf." he notes that despite promises, government officials have done very little to seriously address the debt crisis.

"They start to borrow money, and borrowing is economic cocaine," he says. "Once you start, it's just hard to stop."

Lamm adds, "I feel a duty to my children, to my grandchildren. And I know that sounds corny, but I really do."

Here's the full statement sent out on Thursday from the Campaign to Fix the Debt"

Campaign to Fix the Debt -- Colorado: "Hold the Applause"

(DENVER, CO) -- Late Tuesday night Congress approved, and yesterday the President signed, a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. But it is too soon to begin the back-slapping and congratulations. In fact, the agreement did little to tackle the biggest drivers of the country's fiscal problems or tackle the growing national debt. Without meaningful entitlement, tax and spending reforms the debt will continue to grow, continue to endanger jobs and economic growth, and continue to put an even greater burden on future generations.

"Instead of using the fiscal cliff as a moment to address the root of our country's debt problems, Washington seemed content to do the very least possible," said former Governor Richard Lamm, co-chair of the Colorado Steering Committee for the Campaign to Fix the Debt. "We can't afford to continue to ignore the underlying fiscal issues and settle for political brinksmanship with each new economic crisis. Members of Congress and the White House need to sit down again and work on legislation that will truly address our long-term debt.

"Lawmakers have a responsibility to future generations to get our fiscal house in order," Lamm continued. Instead of a finish line, lawmakers should capitalize on the goodwill of the moment to return to the table to discuss the tough decisions necessary to stabilize the national debt and gradually put it on a downward trajectory. "

Colorado members of the Campaign to Fix the Debt are now urging policymakers to make the reforms necessary to further control spending, ensure the sustainability and solvency of entitlement programs, and reform the U.S. tax code to promote growth and greater revenue. The President and Members of Congress have publicly stated that more work needs to be done. The deal that the country needs will require lawmakers to put aside partisan holdouts to reach a principled agreement large enough to stabilize the debt and put it on a downward, long-term trajectory.

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Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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