Governor John Hickenlooper delivered Colorado’s State of the State address Thursday, most of which focused on the economy. He also mentioned wanting more money for several projects, mostly for education, welfare, and infrastructure concerns.
Hickenlooper won reelection in a hard fought battle in November, coming out ahead primarily because of Colorado’s strong economy and fears of an ultra conservative opponent. Hick isn’t without his detractors however, and his previous stances on gun control are his biggest albatross.
He apologized for past atrocities against Native Americans as well, mentioning the Sand Creek Massacre, one of the worst events in Colorado’s history. He used this as a segue to his “State of Kind” initiative, one that he hopes will encourage charitable behavior in citizens.
Water issues are also at the forefront of his agenda, and rightfully so. The water compacts currently in place are dangerously outdated, with California and Nevada being the primary beneficiaries of the nearly 100-year-old agreements. Without a new water agreement soon, Colorado could see a return to the drought years that plagued it during the early part of the millenium.
He also talked about the state’s budget, expressing concerns that there won’t be enough money to fund the ever expanding number of government programs. Colorado currently has a budget surplus, and under the Taxpayer Bill Of Rights (TABOR) that money must be returned to citizens, unless they vote to give it over to the state.
“Chief among the challenges we know is our budget, a financial thicket,” he said. “Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes. If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time.” He hinted that he may want to do away with TABOR, a dangerous stance to take in a state that it has kept afloat while many others were experiencing financial collapse. He didn’t go as far as former Governor Roy Romer, who flat out said TABOR should be repealed on Tuesday so the state could continually raise taxes without approval from taxpayers.
He also mentioned that Colorado is one of the best states to do business in, often ranking near the top of most lists. He went into several types of business, including tech startups and aerospace. These jobs are often higher paying, and have been a huge boon to the economy here. He also later mentioned the legalized marijuana situation, expressing concerns that federal regulations are continuing to get in the way of the massive boon that it has already brought to the state.
The governor went on to ask for more money for some of his programs, mostly for welfare and education. He asked for a few million more dollars for the programs, a large portion of which could be covered by refunds that are owed to citizens.
Notably, he did not seem to take a stance on certain aspects of oil drilling in the state. In the past he has been a fervent supporter of oil fracking, drawing the ire of those who oppose the practice. Until he takes a stance on issues like local control over drilling and what types of regulations are necessary at the state level, this seems likely to be a political hot potato for much of his term.
The entire transcript of the speech can be found on TheDenverChannel.com.