Gov. John Hickenlooper hailed the turnaround of Colorado's economy since the Great Recession in Thursday’s annual State of the State address to lawmakers but also said creating even more jobs remains a top priority.
Despite challenges from wildfires and flooding last year, Hickenlooper said Colorado remained strong.
"The state of Colorado has not only endured, it has thrived," Hickenlooper told a joint session of House and Senate members at the state Capitol during his annual address.
One Republican didn't dispute that the economy is doing well, but did question if Hickenlooper had much to do with that.
The governor, though, took pride in Colorado moving from 40th in the nation in job growth in 2010 to 4th in 2013.
Hickenlooper cited a fund to encourage development of advanced industries as an example of how state government helped job growth.
The governor also discussed his work in luring business to the state, saying three Fortune 500 companies recently chose to call Colorado home.
"The fact that our state is strong and growing stronger is no accident," Hickenlooper said. "In Colorado, we work for our luck. Shortly after we took office three years ago, we launched a strategy to be a thoughtful and supportive partner with the business community."
Hickenlooper says expanding tax incentives for job growth is very important, as well as efforts to improve high-speed internet access in rural areas. He also said infrastructure work, like transportation and water projects, should receive funding to help boost the economy.
In addition, Hickenlooper said making college more affordable should be a priority.
The governor asked lawmakers to add $100 million for public colleges and universities since school funding was cut dramatically during the economic downturn.
Additionally, the governor urge lawmakers to consider tuition increases capped at six percent as his Democratic colleagues in the Senate have already proposed.
Hickenlooper ended the speech with a call for unity despite the looming political campaigns leading up to the November election where the governor and many other lawmakers face reelection.
"Vigorous debate is our ally, partisanship is not," Hickenlooper said. “Skepticism is productive. Corrosive cynicism is not. So, as we begin this session, my ask is we ignore the divisive politics."
Republican Sen. Greg Brophy, who has announced a bid for governor, called Hickenlooper's address a "hollow, campaign speech."
"The governor took credit for things that may or may not have just naturally occurred in the economy," Brophy said. "He failed to take responsibility for participating in the division down here last year that I think was as bad or worse than what we see in Washington DC."
But many of the Republicans who aren’t running for governor seemed more receptive to Hickenlooper’s address. Senate minority leader Bill Cadman was happy to hear Hickenlooper’s commitment to increasing the state’s rainy day fund, and his desire put more money into higher education.
"A lot of the things that he said were things that we’ve been promoting for quite a while, so obviously we’re thrilled," Cadman said.
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