DENVER (AP) – Gov. John Hickenlooper urged lawmakers Thursday to move forward on social and financial goals this session, encouraging them to prove “cynics” wrong and show they can cooperate to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and make Colorado more business-friendly.

The Democratic governor made his highest-profile push in support of legal protections for gay and lesbian couples during his State of the State address, saying “government should treat all people equally.”

“It’s time to pass civil unions,” Hickenlooper said to applause and a standing ovation from Democrats. Most, if not all, Republicans remained seated.

Lawmakers passed a civil union bill in the Democratic-led Senate last year but the legislation failed in the House, where Republicans have control.

WATCH VIDEO: Gov. John Hickenlooper’s complete State of the State speech

About a dozen states allow civil unions or same-sex marriage. Civil union laws took effect this month in Hawaii and Delaware. And Democratic governors in Washington state and Maryland also are pushing lawmakers to adopt such laws.

Hickenlooper also encouraged lawmakers in the state’s split Legislature to work together to attract businesses and spur free enterprise – a point the governor underscored by referencing Colorado legend John Stetson, saying the iconic hat-maker embodied the entrepreneurial spirit the state so badly needs to re-capture.

“If there were ever a time when Colorado needed to spur greater support for entrepreneurship to create and attract new business, it is now,” Hickenlooper said.

The state faces nearly $700 million in budget cuts this coming year. The general fund budget is at about $7.4 billion.

He said collaboration would prove wrong those who predict gridlock.

Watch CBS4’s interview with Gov. John Hickenlooper after the speech below:

“Cynics say it’s an election year and partisan fights will drown out any hope for success,” he said. “We believe the cynics are wrong.”

Hickenlooper also highlighted the need to ease regulations on businesses and asked lawmakers to send voters an overhaul of the state personnel system, saying, “The state constitution is riddled with personnel rules and administrative procedures that are obsolete and should be reformed.”

The speech was largely well-received by both parties, immediate divisions emerged only on civil unions and ways to find budget savings.

Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty said he was pleased to hear Hickenlooper discuss entrepreneurship. “When we hear these themes from the governor, they do fit very nicely with what our agenda is as House Republicans,” he said.

Watch an interview with CBS4 below where Speaker Of The House Rep. Frank McNulty provides the Republican response to the speech:

Hickenlooper also used his address to cite some successes from his first year in office, including attracting Arrow Electronics to move to Colorado, passing a budget by a majority vote after a contentious debate and creating a health insurance exchange as required by federal law.

Hickenlooper said the state’s economy is still recovering from the recession and that revenues are still $1 billion lower than they were five years ago and cited that lost revenue a reason to do away with a nearly $100 million property tax credit for seniors.

Republicans are adamant the credit remain and the issue is likely to be sore point during the session.

Hickenlooper said although revenues have begun to increase, Colorado’s economy recovering at a slow pace. He said he wants to restore the property tax break for seniors when the economy is healthier and lawmakers should work on economic development if they want the tax credit restored.

Republicans have said the state should seek a “waiver” from some Medicaid spending requirements in order to find savings.

Watch an interview with CBS4 below where Senate President Sen. Brandon Schaffer provides the Democratic response to the speech:

Hickenlooper has said that’s not possible, but acknowledged that the growth of Medicaid is “not sustainable for the state budget.”

Republican Sen. Greg Brophy has sponsored a bill to seek a waiver and he said it sounded like Hickenlooper “all but endorsed that idea.”

Senate President Brandon Shaffer said he hasn’t reviewed Brophy’s bill but said he intends to keep an open mind. “I think that there’s room for a lot of common ground, a lot of compromise this session,” he said.

Medicaid would account for $185.6 million of the $227.1 million spending increase in Hickenlooper’s proposed general fund budget.
“We are absolutely committed to bending the Medicaid cost curve and pursuing strategies that will cut Medicaid costs. We are tackling fraud, over-payments and eligibility,” he said.

McNulty said Hickenlooper should do more than that.

“What we need to have is not talking points about waste, fraud and abuse,” he said, adding that both parties and Hickenlooper should discuss how “we get out from underneath those federal mandates, for crying out loud.”

Regarding civil unions, McNulty said it’s an issue that “distracts us from the issues of job creation and economic recovery.”

Democratic Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst said she was glad to see Hickenlooper “receive broad support from both sides of the aisle on just about everything.”
Hullinghorst said she noticed a large division only on civil unions, where she saw “Democrats standing and Republicans not standing.”

RELATED: Prepared Text Of Colorado State Of The State Speech

By Ivan Moreno, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (3)
  1. john says:

    Lets see if I understand this.
    People in favor of civil unions think they are entitled to share medical coverage.
    So if one person has coverage the other is covered just like a spouse right?
    They also want to be able to file joint income tax returns right?
    They want all the same benefits afforded to legitimate married couples.
    So why then can’t any two people simply do the same thing?
    Why can’t I include my adult children as part of the family medical plan?
    obviously we are not married to our children but then neither are people in so called civil unions?
    Just exactly what is the definition of a civil union? and who says so?
    So if any two friends want to be considerd a civil union can they?
    Where does this end?
    I have two friends that are both hetorosexual, one is divorced and one is widowed, why can’t they declare a civil union even though there is no relationship between them other than a standing 40 year straight friendship.
    Marriage is between a man and a woman, anything else is fine but not the same.
    I don’t approve of such nonsense but could care less what other people do.
    To play with laws that affect income tax and medicakl coverage etc. is just plain asking for a calamity like the medical marijuana joke.’
    You think I am crazy?
    Watch what happens if they ever cram this garbage down our throats.

  2. Ted says:

    He also wants seniors to give up tax breaks. Until tax money is used for only people here legally and citizens in schools, he has no right to ask them to give up anything.

  3. denvervet says:

    John, I feel its no business of yours if two women or two men want to have their relationship made into a civil union. It has no effect on you what so ever. Things will just be exactly the same as they always were before civil unions were made legal. I dont see how this affects anyone’s life in a negative way. Making a threat at the end of your statement is uncalled for. Being a “hater” takes so much negative energy and its not worth it in the end, only hurts yourself. Be good man.

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