DENVER (AP) – Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper plans to lay out his goals and principles for the next four years during his inaugural Tuesday and his state of the state speech Thursday.
What he won’t do is announce any major new programs, because the state doesn’t have the money as it deals with a $1 billion shortfall this year.
“I think that the economy and jobs will be the headline. If Colorado becomes the state with the most efficient state government where we deliver services more effectively and more efficiently than any other state, that becomes part of our economic development. Businesses want to be in a place that is well run,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press last week as he worked on his speeches.
Much of Hickenlooper’s success will depend on the people he picks for his administration. The Democrat said he’s willing to try something different, picking administrators for their expertise rather than their politics.
Hickenlooper has already announced some surprise cabinet picks, including Republicans like Reeves Brown to head the Department of Local Affairs and some virtual unknowns like Reggie Bicha, former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, to be his human services executive director. The restaurant entrepreneur also picked a labor activist, Ellen Golombek, to lead the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, disappointing some Republicans.
Hickenlooper said not to expect much of an agenda from him the first year, which has upset some Democrats who were hoping Hickenlooper would take advantage of his honeymoon with lawmakers and lay out specific programs for the next four years.
“We’re not going to say we want this in a bill, this in a bill, this in a bill, but we will talk with enough specificity that certainly my expectation is that bills will come out,” he said. “We want to be sufficiently specific so that actions can come from it.
“We don’t have any money so there’s no staff to hire. We’re not going to go out and reallocate money to state whole new programs from scratch. We’re going to look at existing resources and say, how can we redirect resources so that we have less red tape. Our job is to do so in a way that doesn’t harm the environment that is ethical,” he said.
The inaugural dinner will be frugal as well: Barbecue beef brisket, green chile macaroni and cheese, and Colorado beer will be served at the Fillmore Auditorium.
That’s less fancy than the fare served at Gov. Bill Ritter’s inaugural, but tickets are more expensive — $100 each. Once enough money is raised to cover costs, proceeds will go to selected charities.
In the inaugural speech, Hickenlooper will hearken back to his inaugural speeches as Denver mayor in 2003 and 2007, when he also had to deal with budget crises. His solution was to empower citizens to rise to the challenges facing them and find common ground.
“This requires citizen participation. To put this more accurately, it gives citizens a glorious opportunity to play a consequential role in history,” he said when he launched his second term as mayor in 2007.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
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