Governor John Hickenlooper says Colorado has weathered a tough year but showed the world what it means to come together and be strong. The Governor gave what could be his final state of the state address on Thursday – before facing reelection in the fall.
The Governor’s speech began on a somber note as he remembered the tests Colorado faced in 2013. The head of the State’s Department of Corrections was gunned down. Natural disasters plagued the summer and fall – and then there was December’s shooting at Arapahoe High School…
“Colorado has been scorched. Colorado has been flooded,” said Hickenlooper. “Colorado once again endured senseless, inexplicable violence. Yet despite all of it, we did not let that define us. That is not our story. Our story, and what we showed the world is: Colorado does not shutdown. Colorado does not quit. Colorado does not break.”
— Bente Birkeland (@BenteBirkeland) January 9, 2014
Hickenlooper says the state thrived. He talked about an improving economy and a more friendly business climate that brought new companies to the state…
“When it came to job growth in 2010 this state was ranked 40th in the nation. Now- three years later, in that same ranking, Colorado is the 4th fastest job growth state in the country. 40th to 4th,” said Hickenlooper.
Looking ahead to 2014, the Governor outlined his goals for the new legislative session, such as capping tuition hikes at colleges and universities. He also wants to update the state’s telecommunications laws and provide broadband internet to rural Colorado. Several lawmakers praised the speech.
“That was one of his most critical messages. We’re Colorado. We work together. And we can recover, connect and rebuild for everyone,” said Representative Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs).
“After the year we’ve had, I think we want to see the Governor be the cheerleader for the state and he did that,” said house minority leader Brian Del Grosso (R-Loveland).
Del Grosso says he’s also pleased with Colorado’s economic recovery and an unemployment rate that’s lower than the national average.
“The state has definitely made progress, you can’t argue with the numbers. But there are still areas of our state that are struggling and they’re not seeing the job growth that we’re seeing in Denver or on the Front Range,” said Del Grosso. “We have to continue to look at all four corners of the state.”
Governor Hickenlooper urged lawmakers to try and put politics aside, something both parties pledge to do before the start of every legislative session. But last year was historically divisive. Democrats passed stricter gun laws, a renewable energy mandate for electric coops and same day voter registration. Republican Gubernatorial candidate Senator Greg Brophy from Wray says Hickenlooper failed to lead – especially on the issue of gun control.
“He was the chief divider last year. He could’ve broken out his veto pen, represent the average Coloradan instead of the mayor of New York City and liberal special interest groups. I’m disappointed he tells less than half of the story of his tenure as Governor,” said Brophy.
For his part Hickenlooper seemed relaxed in front of the joint session of the legislature. And while he didn’t defend the gun laws he did say guns are only one piece of the puzzle.
“Another clear piece is mental health, trying to identify and assist those who are feeling isolated, bullied, the mentally ill. As trite as this may sound, those who are feeling abandoned and unloved,” said Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper didn’t call for any further action. In fact the majority of the speech focused on past policies. The Governor says his top priority this session is making sure lawmakers are in it together to get things done. But getting everyone on the same page may be an uphill challenge especially during an election year.
Listen to the full State of the State address as delivered by Governor John Hickenlooper: