Dan Maes Interview

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dan is not an experienced politician. It’s not just that he hasn’t run for office before, it’s that he is new to the system. This is rare at this level. He also comes across as a credible competent candidate – so don’t discount him because he’s new to this. He lacks the political connections (and the funding resources that come with it) but he’s got political skills and is resonating with the base.

(So let’s talk Dan’s odds as that’s question #1 on everyone’s mind. In a normal year his lack of connections and funding would make this a futile quest. But with the tea partiers having stronger support than the Republican party, and Dan having the enthusiastic support of those tea partiers, he’s got a shot. The giant question is – will enough of them show up at the caucuses to put him way ahead of Scott McInnis? And as with anytime there is a large group that normally doesn’t participate in the process – we won’t know until we see the turnout & count the votes.)

On to the interview…  

Dan is a successful businessman who has built up and sold several companies. He brings this approach to how he would run the state. He’s not a Republican or Conservative so much as he’s a business executive. A lot of his focus is on improving how the state operates and taking a businesslike approach to decision-making. Yes he’s a conservative and yes he’s responding to the people he talks to. But at core he’s a business guy who wants to improve how the state operates.

He’s running because he thinks Governor Ritter is doing a terrible job, especially with the Oil & Gas regulations that he has imposed. Dan believes that the regulations have drastically reduced the amount of drilling, and therefore the number of jobs, in Colorado. He also sees the state bureaucracy as being inefficient, over compensated, and over staffed compared to other states, and especially compared to private enterprise.

That’s half of it. But while he was (mostly) true to the 11th commandment, he also spoke to the issue that he did not see anyone on the Republican side stepping up who would address these issues. His concern is that the Republicans need a candidate who will tell the voters what they believe and what they will do. Dan has a businessperson’s contempt for a person who speaks in vague generalities and does not make commitments as to what they think and what they will do. (Having worked in high tech companies my whole life I’m 100% with Dan on this – people who won’t give clear opinions and commitments annoy the snot out of me.)

He wants to make Colorado a more business-friendly environment. On Oil & Gas his first step would be to eliminate all of the regulations that Ritter brought in to place. He believes that these regulations have caused a significant depression in drilling in this state, starting on the day Ritter was elected.

He also wants to encourage Aerospace and High-Tech small businesses in the state. As the owner of a small high-tech company I asked him what that help would be. He flipped it and asked me what I want from the state. When I couldn’t think of anything he then replied that the best thing the state could do then was just not bother us. So this is a focus for him, but nothing specific in mind (yet).

He did bring up a case of the IRS fining one of his companies because a form was filed a day late. No taxes were owed, but the form was late and so the fine was levied. Small actions like this that an individual personally faces can have significant impact on their view. To a person running a business this becomes the face of the government – and they are acting in a way they find unfair.

This then shot in to a very interesting point. Dan has had numerous small business owners tell him that the additional taxes they pay when hiring an additional employee are a disincentive to hiring and therefore the government should give a tax break for additional hiring. I didn’t understand this at first because I thought he meant the additional taxes on the additional profit from that person was what they were upset about. No. They view the payroll taxes they pay when they hire a person as additional taxes on them and that those additional taxes are a reason to not hire a person.

I replied as a business owner that this made no sense to me. An employee costs me X dollars between salary, taxes, benefits, etc. and if I make more than X from hiring them, then I make money. Dan said he personally sees it the same way, but that most of the small business owners he talks to do not. They view additional hiring as additional taxes they have to pay and those taxes are a disincentive to hiring. (In that the taxes reduce the ROI of hiring someone they are right. But you can say the same thing about paying someone well.)

What’s interesting here is what this says about Dan as a politician. Dan views it differently, but most of his supporters do view this tax hit as a problem. And so Dan is looking to find a way to provide tax relief for additional hiring. This shows both that Dan does respond to the concerns of the voters (which is supposed to happen in a democracy) and that he then looks for solutions that will make the state better off (more jobs). I think this reflects very well on Dan – he’s not telling everyone that he has all the answers, he’s listening and responding to the concerns of his voters.

He would also like to see the business personal property tax repealed. This is universally unpopular because it is such a gigantic PITA. For many companies (like mine), it’s not the amount, it’s the effort to determine what is owed. Unlike many who want it repealed, but are limited by TABOR that they can’t then have an increase elsewhere to make up the difference – he would just like to eliminate it and have the state live with the lower income.

This brought us in to the core approach of Dan Maes – reducing the cost of government. At the end of this part of the conversation I asked if there is anything the state is doing that it should stop doing (to reduce costs). Not do better, but just not do. He did not list anything that he thought we should not do although he said he probably would find one or two programs that don’t make sense (couldn’t we all). But the bottom line is he is not looking to have the state do less, he’s looking to have the state operate more efficiently – big difference.

He stated flat out that he would not reduce spending on corrections (I should have asked if this meant this part of the state was very efficiently run) and he talked about pointing more money in the general fund back to transportation. So the big hit in his cutting 4,000 employees promise would come from K-12, higher-ed, and health services. He believes that he can cut 1,000 employees from higher-ed without it impacting the colleges in this state.

Here’s the crux of both the strength and weakness of a candidate from Dan’s background. Is the state inefficiently run? Absolutely. Governments are generally less efficient than private enterprise. And in private enterprise there is a range of efficiency based on industry and company. When I worked at Microsoft I found it to be inefficient, bureaucratic, and slow compared to the start-ups I worked at. But back then it was easily one of the most efficient large company in the world. All organizations sit somewhere on a continuum.

So could the state do with 4,000 less people? If you fired the right 4,000 people the state would probably be more efficient. If you made systemic changes, that would have even more impact. There are gigantic savings that could be brought about. On the flip side, governments are not slow, inefficient, and bureaucratic because the people at the top want them to be so. It’s the nature of the beast. Effecting real change in an operation like this is incredibly difficult and takes time (and getting a lot of people on board) – that’s the cost of a democracy.

The strength of an individual like Dan is they will work to improve things a lot more than any career politician will. And we need this. Without these constant efforts, the state will become even less efficient. The weakness of an individual like Dan is he will first assume he can effect change as rapidly and as major as he did at his company and will base his other decisions on that substantial change. It will take a bit of time for him to learn that the fact something makes complete sense does not mean it’s going to happen.

He did speak about working diligently to reduce the cost of government and then with those savings, reduce the tax burden. In no way did he very come across as a Norquist/Bruce drown the government in a bathtub type. He is looking to reduce the cost of what the state presently does to thereby reduce the taxes needed to provide the existing services.

I then asked if there was anywhere in the state where he would like to see additional services. (This was clearly a new question for him – I don’t think his base ever asks that.) This was the other very interesting part – he would put more money into law enforcement, specifically illegal aliens. He says this is by far the #1 issue brought up by the people he talks to. So while the rest of us have forgotten about this issue, it is still gigantic for the tea party base. (And for the life of me, I have no idea why.)

He said the economy comes a distant second in terms of interest. But that his priorities are the economy/jobs first with illegal immigration a close second. This is illustrative of how Dan Maes takes the concerns of the voters into account, but also uses his own judgment as to how to prioritize.

I asked about education and he said that almost never comes up. He pointed out that the age of his base is older and so very few still have children in K-12. They are much more likely to have grandchildren in school. He did speak about the low graduation rate in our public schools and that that needs to be addressed.

So what do we get with Dan Maes. I let the candidate drive the conversation in the first interview so we see what they choose to talk about. On energy he’ll roll back the O&G regulations – and did not say anything about renewables. On education, he listed the poor job our public schools are doing, but that was it aside from cost cutting there. He does support law enforcement, incarceration, & transportation at existing or higher levels. Health & welfare services were not mentioned.

Dan is a thoughtful intelligent guy who speaks clearly to the issues. He has strong support from a base many of whom are scared, upset, etc. But while Dan speaks for that group, he himself is optimistic & positive – and I think that speaks well of the tea partiers who support him. And for Dan Maes, if you get elected, I leave you with this thought…

“He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike-it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.” – Harry Truman [after Eisenhower won]

Original interview & podcast at Dan Maes Interview

29 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    I find your interviews and the corresponding write ups useful.

    If you ever want to do audio, live or archived and podcasted with or without editing- let me know.

    And in this case- Maes’s responses fit fit right in with What’s Going To Happen in 2010 Colorado Politics

    • DavidThi808 says:

      And I have the audio up at the link on my blog.

      thanks – dave

      • MADCO says:

        Grand Junction Pipe Supply  – these are the guys who got the stimulus money and provided a backdrop for gubernatorial speechifying, including rejecting the stimulus.

        According to Maes we can cut 4,000 state employees bang!

        He doesn’t know where or how exactly, but he argues that “saves $400 million, right off the top”

        He bases this on a couple of measures:

        “CO has one of the highest ratios of state employees to population in the country”

        I’d argue that the “small states” are going to be over represented in the top of the list but Colorado ranks 29, and if you take education out of the mix: CO ranks 29.


        And then Maes says “CO is ranked 6th in the country for state employee pay rate”

        Colorado ranks 28th.


        I get that he wants to run the state like a business. But he mistakes the comparable operational model and concludes that we should fire staff. The comparable model for gov’t is to fire citizens. Or fire incarcerated criminals. Or fire lawyers and citizens who file lawsuits (though I’d predict the civil courts pay for themselves).

        In fact, if he was really going to run the state like a business, he’d be looking for ways to “increase top line revenue.” In a business model that usually means increased sales and marketing.  In the state model that means increasing revenue – which he says can be done by removing restrictions to business.  Here he has two specific ideas- eliminate payroll taxes, especially unemployment tax, on new hires and remove the extraction restrictions on O&G.

        He claims that the price drop was only partly responsible for the decreased rig count- but that  “20% of our rig count drop is directly attributable to changes in regulation.”

        Well first- that would seem to imply that 80% of the drop is from prices.

        But second- he claims that the energy industry started capping wells as soon as Ritter was elected.

        Then he quotes Frazier Institute data that “nationwide rig count is down 50%, but in Colorado rig count is down 70%” and the increase is due directly to CO regulation.  

        This sounds awfully simplistic to me, but I lack the expertise to really assess it without doing research that I’m too busy to do. CT? WST? DTR,H?

        David- he asked you point blank what your business needs from the state and you said “nothing”.

        How about – world class universities and well maintained infrastructure? How about broadband for every K-12 school that would allow teleconferenced classrooms?  I’m not trying to tell you what your business needs, but I’m guessing.  It’s the kind of stuff  the Boeing C-suite cited for choosing Chicago over Denver.

        He talked about the “grassroots” being not just vocal complainers, being organized, being 503c’s, 504c’s with PAC money etc

        …saying clearly is they want all old miners out.”

        Sounds like well funded &  organized is astroturf not grass roots. But I totally don’t get the thing about “old miners”

        And I agree with Mr. Maes- he is not a solution and he doesn’t have the solution. The difference is that he thinks that’s a good thing, that it’s enough that he is willing “to lead.” I like leadership from elected officials.  But I like solutions too- why can’t we have both?

        The poll that Maes cites as part of his answer why he can win the assembly – http://www.denvergop.org/polls

        He’s right – he’s leading. He’s wrong x2 – Penry is still in it. And this poll is meaningless.

        • DavidThi808 says:

          David- he asked you point blank what your business needs from the state and you said “nothing”.

          How about – world class universities and well maintained infrastructure? How about broadband for every K-12 school that would allow teleconferenced classrooms?  I’m not trying to tell you what your business needs, but I’m guessing.  It’s the kind of stuff  the Boeing C-suite cited for choosing Chicago over Denver.

          I should have said exactly what you listed. We need better schools, we need more kids going to college, and we need ubiquitous broadband across the state.

          Give me all that and tell me in return my taxes go up 5% – great deal for me. I’ll make more in additional profit than I pay in additional taxes – we all win.

        • ClubTwitty says:

          Then he quotes Frazier Institute data that “nationwide rig count is down 50%, but in Colorado rig count is down 70%” and the increase is due directly to CO regulation.

          Without doing the research myself, I would note a couple of things–

          1-Until commodity prices crashed by 70%+ in late 2008, the drilling rate in CO was at an all time high, kept increasing under Ritter’s term up until about late Nov. 2008. (2007 was higher than 2006, and 2008 was on pace to be higher than 2007).

          2-One would need to compare the RM states and rig decline rather than nationally, and specifically take out the increase in drilling in the shale plays.  Shale plays are known to produce a lot at first and drop off quickly, while the Piceance and Rocky Mnt. region is known to have pipeline infrastructure issues; thus it only makes sense that when a new, huge–some say about 10 times the reserves in the Piceance–shale play comes on line like the Marcellus, that rigs will go there to get the gas when the play is hot, where pipeline capacity exists, etc.

          One–and I assume anyone with any business acumen knows that you cannot compare apples with grapefruit–would have to look at comparable (i.e. Rocky Mnt) states to compare what happened in CO to those, and my guess is that the difference is suddenly much less than 20%.

          Maes either doesn’t know what he is talking about, or he is intentionally misstating facts to appeal to the disaffected O&G workers (both are also possible).

          • MADCO says:

            CT for Guv!

            Well this explains why rig counts are up in some of the most heavily regulated gas fields in the country in NY. High net severance taxes too.

            So, following Maes’s “lead” all we gotta do to get the rig count up here is increase severance taxes and add mirror the regulation in NY (and the rest of the Appalachian Basin)

            He’s clearly right about him not having solutions.

        • BlueCat says:

          My first reaction was that, once again, we hear about pretty drastic cutting but nothing concrete as to where and how these cuts are to be made while keeping essential services well run and well funded. Once again I have to ask, does he think we can maintain infrastructure, basic services and provide first class education by saving string, foil, rubber bands…?

          Also I wonder how active Tea partiers are at caucus and primary level. Does anyone know whether or not this segment of the right tends to be heavy on unaffiliated, plague on both your houses type voters? If so, they may not be all that helpful in promoting a successful nominee against the choice of the establishment.

    • Another skeptic says:

      I’ve heard Maes and McInnis speak. Maes is very sharp and articulate. He makes promises that, as DT notes, sound great but require the cooperation of the legislature, which will be controlled by Dems, according to other posts here. While Tea Party people may buy his pitches, I wonder whether they would sell in a general election.

      McInnis seems to be saying he would create a better business environment for small businesses. But he’s not specific and won’t be until he has to.

      Neither candidate has said what he would do to cut spending. They don’t want to scare people? And neither candidate has proved to me that they know much about what small businesses need.

      It’s not more spending on higher and k-12 education. It’s not free broadband. And it’s not higher taxes and more regulations. And it’s not being left alone. What all businesses need is pretty much beyond the control of the states. Maybe that’s why the candidates are being so vague. They know there is little they can do while Obama and Congress are screwing up the economy.

      Maes’ biggest problem is money from what I read. Without piles of cash, he’s toast. Just like Romanoff.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        And my company would benefit from that within 1 – 2 years. And with each additional year, that benefit increases.

        Bring in true high-speed Internet, and for everyone, and the small high-tech companies in the state would get an immediate bump. (This is unlikely as Qwest hates us all.)

  2. sxp151 says:

    Did immigrants stop being brown or something? What’s the puzzle here?

  3. Ray Springfield says:

    Nothing like scapgoating or running on race based politics.

    I assume that he believes that corporations that hire, or individuals, or small businessman that hire immigrants are falutless.

    So we have put more people in jail,and  deport the low wage earners and give those jobs to whom?

  4. harrydoby says:

    Not so great candidate.  For a successful businessman, Maes doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the laws of supply and demand.  Dumping the new O & G regs isn’t going to impress or affect local or world markets.  His other views seem based more on simplistic stereotyping.  

    Hopefully, he’ll start doing more homework and get a bit more informed on the bigger issues that would face any governor.

    Re: making government more efficient — starting with cutting education, whether K-12 or Higher Ed, is ridiculous.

    One technique that never gets mentioned is Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB).  That, with automatic Sunsetting of legislation and regulations would force us to periodically reflect about whether this function/department/law/regulation still serves a useful purpose.  If it passes muster, then we’d also become more accustomed (and willing) to writing a check to pay for the value received.

    Then we wouldn’t suffer the fools that promise to cut generic “TAXES” or “WASTE”, but don’t have the guts or knowledge to say where they expect the revenue to run government, and the waste they plan to eliminate, will come from.

    • MADCO says:

      What are you , some kind of radical?

      I mean, holy sheeit, what you’re talking about would require legislators and a governor who actually had to build a budget, fund same, and then stand behind it. That’s just…. nuts.

      Happy New year Harry.

    • Another skeptic says:

      Which legislature has or will let it happen?

      • harrydoby says:

        There are plenty of each floating around the political ecosphere.  It just seems that as a fiscally conservative businessman, Maes would, like, actually try to come up with a workable way to make government more efficient.

        That ZBB (and Single-Payer Health Insurance) are actually the shortest path to that and other positive goals, only serves to illustrate that non-starter ideas aren’t necessarily bad ideas.

  5. dmindgo says:

    It’s popular to say that government is the problem (RR for starters) but I can’t remember ever seeing any proof.  Health care is the obvious example: the VA, Medicare, and Medicaid have a much lower overhead than the private health care system.  Insurance companies that require an annual increase in profits is an obvious drag on the efficiency of the system.  There are many oft-cited other examples: police and fire protection, education, libraries.  In fact, privatization was tried in the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Huge waste and corruption has been the result.  There are many things that private enterprise can accomplish but not basic health, safety, and welfare:  the profit motive serves to only degrade those services.  The area over which we can argue is what are those services?  The other area over which I think we can disagree is scale.  Does a huge slaughterhouse belong next to anything?  Probably not.  What about a small one.  It’s not a problem in a rural area.  How to decide that proper size, though, that is the problem.

    I can cite many examples myself of being mystified by how government services are run, but many of the answers thrown out there seem to be either get rid of government involvement or to shrug and say it can’t be helped.  This is where transparency and accountability can be of help.  In the case of transparency, it seems most people would not like to go back to a government entity meeting in secret and having no published agenda.  The movement toward open records kept accessible on the internet is a great step forward.  Accountability is more difficult but I think we can increase it – incrementally.  I think the more people we can involve in governance the better we will be in the long run.  It will be messy, and sometimes downright ugly, but that is democracy.  Enough rant, Happy New Year!

    • harrydoby says:

      As long as I’m throwing out radical ideas for the new year, why not advocate mandatory public service for all?

      If everyone had to serve at least one term in the legislature (sort of like grand jury duty), wouldn’t we get a better idea about how government does, can, should work?

      Save a lot on campaign donations and PAC influence, don’t you think?

      Boy, would it be fun to serve with Rosen and Harsanyi?  The crapola they’d have to eat when they found out there really are consequences to cutting services and lifelines…

      What is it about conservatives that “see no evil, hear no evil” as long as it doesn’t affect them?  Dick Cheney supports gay rights because his daughter is gay.  These guys need to get out of their bubble and see life as it really is.  Maybe they’d find they do have a heart afterall.

      • dmindgo says:

        I favor public service, even mandatory, but I don’t think everyone can serve a term in the legislature.  Unless it is enlarged greatly, I’m guessing it’s impossible in a time-sense.  Plus it would increase the influence of lobbyists and staff.  I’m not comfortable with that right off the bat.

        I’d put forward public financing of elections (which I think they have done in Arizona and Maine) as my preferred option for increasing participation in the legislature.  The other thing we could do would be to increase the pay to something that would enable more people to afford to run and serve.  Probably a percentage of median income.

        • harrydoby says:

          A citizen legislature would need many more members, and yes, they would rely on the unelected staff/lobbyists even more than today’s legislature.  It’s bad enough now with term limits reducing the institutional knowledge to dangerously low levels, and increasing the partisan divide.  But serving on a grand jury opened my eyes to a bit of the inner workings of our city that I would not otherwise have experienced.

          The notion of mandatory public service would never fly anyway, even if it were merely the reinstitution of offering 18 – 35 year olds a choice between serving in the military, a volunteer organization, or working on the staff of a legislator.

          When/if I retire, I hope to exercise option 2 or 3 above.

      • Another skeptic says:

        Our most creative people are not in public service, which is a good thing.

    • DavidThi808 says:

      There clearly are things that the state does better than private businesses. But at the same time the state generally has lerss efficient workforces than the private sphere.

  6. amaesinggov says:

    I wanted to let you all know that your opinions matter.  I did indeed fail to mention zero based budgeting which I have endorsed previously.  Just didn’t this time.  Re: O&G bottom line is the regs effected production in this state and theFrasier reports reflect it.  So chant all you want about commodity rates but the facts are there.  Sure rates did play a role. Finally, I do actually have a copy of the budget and will get specific.  Be patient, there is still time.  Thanks again David.  I suspect no one is baffled any more 🙂  

    • MADCO says:

      In the interview you said “20% of our rig count drop is directly attributable to changes in regulation.”  How did you make that calculation? Which regulations are you in favor of altering?

      You also said  we can cut 4,000 state employees, without specifying where or how exactly,

      You said  “CO has one of the highest ratios of state employees to population in the country”    What are you using as your source?

      I’d argue that the “small states” are going to be over represented in the top of the list but Colorado ranks 29, and if you take education out of the mix: CO ranks 29.


      And then you said  “CO is ranked 6th in the country for state employee pay rate”  What is your source for that?

      Colorado ranks 28th.   http://www.taxfoundation.org/

  7. amaesinggov says:

    Frasier reports provided me reflect 50% reduction in 22 other producing states while Colorado’s was down alomost 70%.  I call that a direct correlation to the regs.  Repeal all new regs and start from scratch.  In the interim we get things jump started again.

    4k employees TBD.  Biggest group would be higher ed as they represent @ 40% of employees. My own executive branch will see the ax as well.  Again, we are still a bit early for specs with caucuses 2 months away.

    Regarding employee and pay ratios I quoted another republican candiate’s numbers.  I appreciate your information and will check my facts.  

    It’s hard to get extremely detailed in a first interview. this is one reason forums and debates are so valuable.  Too bad there are none as all have been cancelled since Penry’s departure.

    I welcome your challenges and questions.

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