DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper presented his annual State of the State address to yet another split Legislature on Wednesday and said that Colorado has a lot to be proud of as well as a lot of work to do.
“In 2011 when we started, Coloradans were hurting. Over 200,000 people were unemployed, and countless more were under-employed. Six years, and almost 400,000 new jobs later, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Colorado’s history and the state of our state is strong. We’re the number one state for business and careers, we have the best workforce, and we’re one of the best states for innovation,” said Hickenlooper.
The following were some of the topics he covered:
Colorado’s health care exchange isn’t going anywhere.
That’s the commitment Thursday from the state’s Democratic governor.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told the state’s 100 lawmakers he will resist national attempts to roll back the federal health care law that requires everybody to get health insurance.
Hickenlooper says that “the last thing we would want is Congress making all our decisions around health care.”
Hickenlooper says that if Congress repeals the health care law, he’ll push for a replacement plan in Colorado.
That’s a sharp difference from Republicans who control the state Senate. They are calling for a bill to dismantle Colorado’s health insurance exchange by 2019.
Colorado, a pioneer in marijuana legalization, has more work to do on pot.
That’s the word from Hickenlooper, who told lawmakers that loopholes in home grow and caregiver laws have allowed illegal pot grows to flourish.
Hickenlooper said he wants $6 million to help local police and government agencies detect illegal grows and prosecute those responsible.
He also said the state is spending $7 million to educate youth and parents about underage use.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is asking the leaders of the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate to find a way to fund public education without sacrificing other core government services.
Hickenlooper applauded a pledge by House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Senate President Kevin Grantham to finally reach deals this legislative session on roads and housing construction.
But he urged them to also find a way to fully fund K-12 education, which now depends on the vagaries of constitutional funding mechanisms.
The governor noted that property taxes for schools will drop by $170 million this year because of constitutional spending rules.
Rural Broadband Access
Colorado’s Democratic governor says he’s creating an office dedicated to getting high-speed internet to all of the state by 2020.
“Infrastructure is more than laying new roads and expanding transit: it’s running the fiber and deploying new technologies for reliable, affordable internet in every part of the state,” said Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper told lawmakers only seven in 10 rural households have high speed access. He says the state of rural internet service is a huge drain on the rural economy — impeding businesses from growing, schools from educating, health clinics from serving patients.
The governor says that fiber optic cables “are today’s power lines for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses.”
Hickenlooper emphasized that with Colorado’s growth more attention needs to be placed on the state’s infrastructure than ever before.
“We need a comprehensive focus on infrastructure that supports not just transportation, but also broadband, education, healthcare, and our environment. These are not luxuries. Infrastructure investments lead to jobs. And quality of life starts with a good job,” said Hickenlooper.
The governor also talked about the need to bring Interstate 25 into the “modern world.”
“This past summer, working with local officials, we secured $15 million in federal funds to help build a new express lane from Fort Collins to Loveland. And just last week, CDOT leveraged funding to start the planning process to add a third lane from Castle Rock to Monument. This means that the required planning will be completed in under three years,” said Hickenlooper. “These are good first steps, but the cost of construction to bring I-25 into the modern world is still over $2 billion. That’s more than CDOT’s total annual budget, which is almost entirely dedicated to maintenance.”
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