State Rep. Dave Young jumped into the Colorado treasurer’s race after serving eight years in the Colorado General Assembly and being termed out of that office.
He is a former junior high school math, science and technology teacher from Greeley, where he boasts of being the only elected Democrat in Weld County.
Young lacks the kind of in-depth investment background of his Republican opponent, Brian Watson, but has worked extensively on finance issues — like the Public Employee Retirement Association — in the legislature. He also knows his way around a bill.
Young, 65, got his undergraduate mathematics degree from Colorado State University and a masters in information and learning technologies from the University of Colorado Denver. He grew up in Colorado Springs.
We spoke with the candidate to get more insight into his background and how he would handle being the state’s top financial officer if elected. It’s a job that entails overseeing and investing Colorado’s billions of dollars in taxpayer funds and what could be a precarious future for PERA.
Here’s a look at his bio:
Young joined other Democrats in the Colorado House who voted against Senate Bill 200 — legislation aimed at reforming PERA — during the 2018 legislative session.
The measure cut benefits and raised the retirement age while boosting contributions from employees and taxpayers. The bill also dedicated $225 million each year to the Public Employees Retirement Association to pay down the massive unfunded liability that has been facing the program — a sticking point for Democrats who were concerned about that money not going to other causes, like education.
For Young, not supporting the legislation came down to the bill’s timing. It was passed in the waning minutes of the 2018 legislative session amid fierce debate.
“When you’re dealing with something with such large financial implications, we ought to all take time to look at the numbers and strip away the politics and say, ‘Is this the right solution in the long term for PERA?’” he said.
He says there are some good signs that Senate Bill 200 has been successful, like the fact that debt rating agencies have not downgraded the state as was being considered. Young still thinks there will be negative consequences for some people because of the measure.
“I am concerned that people who really are at very low levels of benefits under PERA, and are sustainable under retirement just barely, will begin to drop into poverty if we don’t do something about cost-of-living adjustments,” he said.
As for his plan if elected treasurer — a position that gets you a spot on the PERA board — Young says he is dedicated to ensuring that recipients get the benefits they were promised and finding a sustainable way forward.
He does not agree, however, with Watson that the PERA retirement age should be increased.
Toughest decision as lawmaker
Young says working on the Joint Budget Committee to balance the state’s budget and deciding how to vote on Senate Bill 200 was hard. But the most difficult decision he made as a state legislator came in 2017 when deciding on the state’s so-called “hospital provider fee.
The JBC decided unanimously to move forward a bill slashing the fee, which provides funds to hospitals across the state as a way to handle the burden of uncompensated service from patients who can’t pay for care or those covered by Medicaid. The impact would have been felt most by the state’s rural hospitals, and it was thought many would have closed if the measure passed.
“Had that bill gone through, was going to be a closing and severe reduction of medical services particularly in rural Colorado,” Young said. “That was a tough vote, but we knew we needed to take action.”
The threat of the hospital cuts is ultimately what led to the passage of Senate Bill 267 in 2017, which restored the hospital funding and dedicated money to pay for transportation projects across the state.
“It was a tough vote and I appreciated that all six of us worked together,” Young said. “That was a tough one, and it was difficult to come to terms with, but I’m glad we did it.”
Young, like most Democrats, opposes Amendment 74 on the ballot this November.
The amendment would force the government to reimburse property owners for a loss in market value caused by the passage of a law or regulation. It’s being backed by farmers and the oil and gas industry who see the ballot question as a way to push back against new oil and gas regulations.
“I believe that it’s going to present a very serious burden on taxpayers across the state,” Young said in a recent debate.
He added that the amendment would build off of “these funding crisis that we (already) have.”
“Both my sister and I are adopted,” Young told The Colorado Sun. “I think it’s one of the things that has driven me forward. My sister and I have a very close bond. She is intellectually and developmentally disabled. Neither of us know a lot about our biological families.”
Young says that being adopted help drive him into public service.
“I just think that experience, that has really forged my desire to serve the public because I saw what my parents did,” he said.
Getting into politics
Young says his sister was denied an education early on — in kindergarten — because of her disabilities.
“It was my experiences watching my sister try to get care that really drove me forward,” he said of getting into politics.
Young has worked on legislation at the Capitol to try to benefit people like his sister.
As for the prospect of running for higher office someday? He says he doesn’t have such ambitions.
“I’m focused on being a treasurer,” he said.
A biker for treasurer?
OK, not that kind of biker.
Young says he is in love with riding bicycles.
“I haven’t had any time in the last several years to ride as much as I would like to,” he said.
Young used to ride mountain bikes until his doctor told him “you’re spending more time injured than on a bike.” He is sticking with road biking now.
More reading on Dave Young
— Colorado treasurer candidates have differing views on raising state retirement age — The Denver Post, Oct. 15, 2018
— Colorado Treasurer Race 2018: Brian Watson And Dave Young On The Issues — Colorado Public Radio, Oct. 15, 2018
— Faced with a Colorado budget that makes deep cuts to hospitals, some lawmakers are ready for a change — Denverite, March 28, 2017
— Greeley’s Rep. Dave Young and Joint Budget Committee at the center of impending state budget battle — The Greeley Tribune, Jan. 16, 2016