Thursday, January 8, 2009


Delivering his annual State of the State Address, Gov. Bill Ritter today called for an unprecedented bipartisan focus on jobs and the economy to help Colorado weather the worldwide economic crisis. See below for complete embargoed text of speech as prepared.
Gov. Ritter said the achievements of the past 24 months – including building a New Energy Economy, attracting thousands of new jobs and undertaking comprehensive education reforms – have put Colorado on a more solid financial footing than many other states.
Those achievements, coupled with sound decisions to be made this legislative session and beyond, along with having a stronger federal partner with the incoming Obama administration, will better position Colorado for a quicker rebound when the economy recovers, Gov. Ritter said.
"In this legislative session, in this tough economy, we'll need to make tough choices, we'll need to collaborate and listen to one another as we chart a Colorado way forward," Gov. Ritter said. "Our challenges need more than just Democratic ideas or Republican ideas. We need uniquely Colorado ideas.
"Families and businesses throughout Colorado are facing challenges they haven't seen in generations," Gov. Ritter said. "Families are making different decisions, setting different priorities, and sacrificing. Just like every family in Colorado, we'll need to make tough choices here in the Capitol as well.
"Over the next 120 days, our collective focus must be on protecting businesses, creating jobs, and managing the budget. I will look at everything we work on this session through the lens of the economy – of what's responsible now and what's best for the long run."
Gov. Ritter said his priorities this session will be on:
·         Balancing the state budget. Gov. Ritter will present the legislature's Joint Budget Committee with recommended budget cuts Jan.15. He has directed his department heads and Budget Director Todd Saliman to prepare plans for a 10 percent, or nearly $800 million, reduction through a combination of programmatic cuts, cash-fund transfers and utilizing the state's emergency reserve.
·         Protecting businesses, creating jobs and strengthening the economy. Gov. Ritter outlined two economic-development bills:
o       House Bill 1001, which will establish a tax credit incentive for companies that create more than 20 new jobs. "Colorado has never been able to compete against other states in terms of incentives," Gov. Ritter said. "This job-creation tax credit won't just be a new tool in the toolbox – it will be a whole new toolbox."
o       Legislation to revive the Colorado Credit Reserve Program, which will help thousands of businesses obtain access to credit and capital during the downturn.
·         New Energy Economy, including legislation to:
o       Require that all new single-family homes come with a "solar-ready" option.
o       Facilitate financing for residential and business clean-energy projects.
o       Build wind and solar projects on schools throughout rural  Colorado.
o       Require home-sellers to disclose energy bills for the past 12 months.
·         Transportation. Gov. Ritter challenged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to work with him on a staged omnibus transportation bill called FASTER – Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery.
o       Stage 1: Putting immediate safety and maintenance needs first by looking at fees and bonding to fix old bridges and old roadways.
o       Stage 2: Exploring creative finance options such as public-private partnerships.
o       Stage 3: Creating a long-term sustainable funding formula, because "we can't build a modern, safe and efficient 21st century transportation system with a 20th century funding model," Gov. Ritter said.
·         Education reform. Gov. Ritter outlined a concurrent enrollment plan that would create a statewide framework for high school students to simultaneously pursue college degrees.
·         Health care reform. Gov. Ritter described a proposal that would generate revenue from Colorado hospitals, and use that revenue to draw down hundreds of millions of dollars in federal reimbursements. Those combined funds would allow the state to provide health coverage to more than 100,000 uninsured Coloradans.
"We must honor our sacred trust with voters by working together to make the tough choices that lie ahead," Gov. Ritter said. "One hundred years from now, I want Coloradans to look back and see this as the turning point – the point when we set aside partisan politics and worked together as Coloradans and built a New Energy Economy, a modern transportation system, and the country's best education system.
"We must not give in to partisan politics. We must not let cynicism win out over hope. We must not let fear win out over faith," he said. "The people of Colorado are counting on us to govern well. We have been given the privilege of serving, the responsibility of charting a clear path forward. Let's make good on the Colorado Promise, together."