GOV. RITTER CALLS FOR FOCUSED 2010 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Gov. Bill Ritter, delivering his fourth and final State of the State Address, called on lawmakers today "to set aside the weaker impulses of partisanship" and remain focused on job creation, economic recovery and keeping the state budget balanced.
"While this has been a tough time, and while there will be setbacks, we are making progress," Gov. Ritter said. "
"Over the last three years, we have been changing course and changing the culture of government – thinking bolder, doing better. Our strategies are working. Even in the worst global economic conditions in generations, we're leading
The Governor outlined his top priorities for the legislative session, including:
· Keeping the state budget balanced, saving money and making government more effective through proposals such as the Medicaid Efficiency Act.
· Creating jobs and growing Colorado's New Energy Economy through proposals such as an increase to the state's renewable energy standard, boosting it from the current 20 percent by 2020 requirement to 30 percent by 2020, and increasing demand for Colorado's cleaner-burning natural gas.
· Making the
· Modernizing teacher and student assessments, including replacing the CSAP test with a new assessment tool by 2011 or 2012.
· Strengthening public safety through legislation to regulate and rein in abuses in
· Shoring up the state's Public Employee Retirement Association pension fund.
"We have a higher responsibility to join together, to overcome our challenges, to turn to what Abraham Lincoln called the 'better angels of our nature,'" Gov. Ritter told lawmakers. "Decades from now, our grandchildren will look back at this moment and ask us what it was like, the same way we look back at the Great Depression. This is a hinge in history, and I hope we can tell them that yes, it was tough, but we worked together and rose to the challenge."
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GOVERNOR BILL RITTER, JR.
STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
Joint Session of the 67th Colorado General Assembly
House Chambers, State Capitol
11 a.m., January 14, 2010
I have had the privilege of serving as the governor of
As a people, we care deeply about each other. We look for ways to build a different and better future for our children, for our grandchildren. We are innovators and creators, we are rugged, and determined. And when tough times or a tragedy strikes, we respond not as outsiders or strangers, but as part of the family. It sets us apart.
As a state,
To live up to that responsibility, we must agree that our service has a meaning and a purpose that is greater than any one of us in this room. At this pivotal point in
In this, my last year as Governor, I recommit to working tirelessly alongside you. We have accomplished much, but time is short, and there remains much work to be done on behalf of the people of
President Shaffer, Speaker Carroll, honorable members of the House and the Senate, thank you for allowing me to stand in this chamber and deliver my fourth and final State of the State Address. Mr. Speaker, as the first African American Speaker of the House, you have broken new ground. Above and beyond that, you are serving the people of
To our distinguished partners in service: Lt. Gov. O'Brien, Treasurer Kennedy, Attorney General Suthers, Secretary of State Buescher, and Senator Bennet ...
Members of the Supreme Court and Board of Education, Mayor Hickenlooper, other local government leaders and Tribal Chairs …
To members of my Cabinet and my staff, members of the public and all those outside this chamber, including the Colorado National Guard and all Coloradans defending our freedoms abroad, thank you for the privilege to serve as your governor.
I especially want to thank my wife and
Turning Obstacles into Assets
In 2006, I ran for governor because
Together we all are turning obstacles into assets, implementing lasting solutions to our serious challenges, and helping Coloradans in every community achieve the Colorado Promise.
We're making the New Energy Economy our calling card to the future.
We're growing other Industries of the Future – aerospace, the biosciences and technology.
We're leading on innovation and manufacturing, because
We're cutting taxes for small businesses, helping small businesses get access to loans, and bringing new jobs and new companies to
We're expanding access to healthcare, improving quality and building a foundation for greater cost controls.
We're bringing the first new sustainable funding for transportation in 20 years, with the first FASTER safety and repair projects set to begin in just a few months.
We're laying the groundwork for long-term fiscal reform.
On education, we've been Racing to the Top for years. More children are enrolled in preschool and full-day kindergarten than ever before. We're tackling the drop-out rate, and CSAPs are going the way of the dinosaurs.
Over the last three years, we have been changing course and changing the culture of government – thinking bolder, doing better. Our strategies are working. Even in the worst global economy in generations, we're leading
Working for You
Since taking office, I've visited every corner of
I've visited with Coloradans who are struggling, and with those who are succeeding, fulfilling the Colorado Promise every single day.
From nearly all of them, I hear this simple message: stay focused on creating jobs and making government leaner and more efficient; invest in our future; strengthen our safety net.
It's a tall order. But in these extraordinary and precarious times, let's listen to our constituents. Let's stay focused on job creation, on doing what's necessary for
We cannot get distracted by partisan politics or the trivial pursuits that threaten to take us away from our core mission of economic recovery. It will not be enough to stay on the sidelines, to constantly criticize, to offer nothing but $10 solutions to billion-dollar problems. We have a higher responsibility, and if you are not at the table providing solutions, then you are part of the problem.
While this has been a tough time, and while there will be setbacks, we are making progress.
Cutting Costs & Increasing Efficiencies
The budget will drive much of this session, and it will be even more challenging than last year.
Since mid-2008, we've closed shortfalls of $2 billion because of the recession. We have a billion-dollar shortfall to close in the coming budget. Over the next few weeks, I will be submitting additional budget-cutting plans to the Joint Budget Committee.
While our efforts have helped stabilize our economy, and while an economic recovery is indeed underway, a revenue recovery is a year away. That means more tough, unpopular – but necessary – decisions. It means we all need to have the courage to ask government agencies, state employees, private businesses and public schools to share in the solutions.
We're going to have to do things we don't want to do. We're going to have to take a balanced approach to keeping the budget balanced, without damaging our ability to recover and grow jobs.
Representative Pommer, Senator Keller and other members of the JBC, thank you for your partnership, your wisdom and your compassion for the people of
This is an unenviable time, but it is when values, leadership and strength matter the most. And thanks to the tough choices we've been making,
Our government efficiency review found more than $200 million in savings and benefits and is proving that good government works and can make people's lives better.
We're eliminating tens of millions of dollars in healthcare waste and fraud.
We're saving money by greening government, and this session we will pursue legislation to make our state parks the first net-zero energy park system in the country.
We're making more services available online and making government more transparent by posting thousands of documents on the web for everyone to see.
We're adapting to a new economic reality, making government smarter and more efficient, just as families and businesses are doing all across
This session, we're going to need to shore up the public employee retirement fund, and I'm pleased that we are nearing a bipartisan solution.
Longer-term, we need to continue the debate over
We started the discussion with Ref C. We made significant progress last year by loosening the knot of conflicting fiscal mandates with Senate Bill 228. But we have a long way to go before we completely untie the knot. We must keep the dialogue going in order to achieve smarter, more sensible and modern budgeting.
More urgently, Coloradans must unite against three of the most backward-thinking ballot measures this state has ever seen. Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 would shut down colleges and prisons, increase class sizes, put thousands of teachers out of work, and prevent the repair of unsafe roads and bridges.
If these measures pass, the state could never again support building another public school, library or rec center. The cynical game the proponents are playing with our future would quite literally destroy the safety net and wipe out any hope of creating a better future for our children.
That's not the
I want a
I want a
Creating Jobs and Energizing our Economy
In these uncertain times, the New Energy Economy – which did not exist three years ago – continues to be our beacon to a brighter future. Today, thanks to many of the people in this chamber, we're leading the nation in this critical area.
We're creating thousands of new jobs, new markets and new revenues.
We're nurturing a culture of innovation from the best energy research corridor in the world.
We're manufacturing 21st century products from state-of-the-art factories.
We're providing affordable, reliable and efficient energy for people all across
We are pioneers.
So, this session let's think bigger, creating even larger markets for solar, wind, biomass, hydro and geothermal. Let's increase our standard to 30 percent.
This will trigger the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs, draw new capital investments and new companies to our state, and keep
This session, we also have an opportunity to lead the nation in expanding the role of cleaner-burning natural gas in our energy portfolio. Natural gas has always been part of the New Energy Economy, and this year we look forward to solidifying its role for the future.
Over the past few months, I've been working closely with the natural gas industry, with utilities and with other stakeholders. We're looking at ways to increase the use of
Together, we have enacted 40 pieces of legislation to build the New Energy Economy. This year, we can continue leading the country and letting the nation and the world know that this truly is our calling card to the future.
When we took office, we began to change the culture around education reform, and change the future for
We're doing a better job educating our kids, and next week we will submit a very competitive Race to the Top grant application. Frankly, regardless of whether
Three years ago, I laid out several 10-year goals for education: cut the dropout rate in half, close achievement gaps, and double the number of college degrees earned by
Ever since, we've been implementing reform after reform. Thanks to those efforts,
While our strategies are working, we can do a better job giving kids a smart start in life. Last year, thousands of students who should have graduated, dropped out. Too many high school graduates aren't college-ready, and too many new employees aren't workforce-ready.
This year, we're going to keep moving forward, with legislation that will take us closer to the day when we end CSAP testing as we know it.
We'll still assess our kids, and we'll assess more rigorously than ever before, because we need to know what they know and what they can do. We will modernize assessments so the tests help our teachers teach, help our students learn, and help our parents engage in their children's education.
On higher education, we will continue to protect
And you will all be happy to know that my last blue-ribbon panel will spend this year crafting a long-term strategic plan for the future of higher-ed in
The stakes are high, because if there is one single key that unlocks the doors of opportunity, it's education. If there is one single key to economic recovery, it is education. And if there is one single key to addressing poverty, it is education. The best economic-development strategy and the best anti-poverty strategy is an education strategy.
We're also showing the country how to craft a smarter criminal-justice strategy.
As a former district attorney, I knew we needed to take a different approach, to develop a comprehensive vision, while still making public safety our number one priority.
We created a
Our violent crime rate is down. Traffic fatalities are at a 30-year low, and motor-vehicle thefts have been cut in half over the past five years.
For decades, prison spending was growing faster than any other part of the budget. We spend more each year keeping 22,000 prison inmates behind bars than we do educating 220,000 college students. That is not a sustainable formula for success.
So we implemented evidence-based strategies to keep the public safe, reduce recidivism and save money. For the first time in anyone's memory, we've reversed the upward trajectory of prison growth and prison spending. We're being tough on crime, and smart on crime. We're taking a more thoughtful approach, which is also a more cost-effective approach.
Another place where we need to find balance is medical marijuana. We need to uphold the will of the voters while reining in abuses and bringing common sense to the chaos that now exists. Together, we can achieve bipartisan solutions that clarify the doctor-patient relationship and address the proliferation of dispensaries. I urge the General Assembly to act quickly in this area.
We also need to address an additional public safety issue by toughening the penalties for drunk driving. We need stronger enforcement, stiffer punishments, and better treatment. I call on this body to deliver a bill that does just that.
Public safety involves more than just criminal justice. It's also the safety net. Especially in a downturn, we have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. We can be both fiscally conservative leaders, and leaders who serve with grace and compassion.
So we will move ahead with legislation to better protect those who depend on us the most, including abused and neglected children – because one child's death is one too many. My deep thanks to the Child Welfare Action Committee. Their good work has already saved lives.
There is no question that we are making historic progress. We are moving
Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Well, we have the right vision and the right strategies in place, and there is no better place than
Our state budget situation – it's an opportunity to adapt to a new economic reality, to re-invent government, to finally craft a long-term strategic plan for higher education.
As difficult as our challenges may seem, we are in a better position than most other states.
The skills of
The vision of the Coloradans in the 1800s who expanded the rail lines east and west, north and south, allowed
And the courage of men like David Moffat and Walter Cheesman, who overcame obstacles – or, went through them – gave us a network of water pipelines, channels and reservoirs that today sustain millions of Coloradans.
Today, our responsibility is to provide that same gift of determination to the generations of Coloradans who will follow us. This session – this year – we must keep building a bridge to
But no strategy is self-executing. We have a higher responsibility to join together, to overcome our challenges, to turn to what Abraham Lincoln called the "better angels of our nature."
Decades from now, our grandchildren will look back at this moment and ask us what it was like, the same way we look back at the Great Depression. This is a hinge in history, and I hope we can tell them that yes, it was tough, but we worked together and rose to the challenge.
God bless you.