Governor highlights Colorado’s resilience in State of the State address

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper painted a picture of a resilient state that is growing stronger in the wake of tragedy and disaster in his fourth State of the State address Thursday.

It was Hickenlooper’s final statewide address before his re-election campaign this year, and he sought to rally Coloradans after the assassination of his Department of Corrections chief, Tom Clements, another school shooting in the Denver suburbs, and record-breaking natural disasters.

“This past year, Colorado has been scorched. Colorado has been flooded. Colorado – once again – endured senseless, inexplicable violence,” he said.

But those events don’t define the state, he said.

“Colorado does not shut down. Colorado does not quit. Colorado does not break,” he said, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd, including Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who wants to challenge Hickenlooper for governor.

Hickenlopper also announced that he’d visit The Durango Discovery Museum at 12:45 p.m. Friday as part of The Colorado Blueprint tour.

To counter Republican arguments that the business climate is worsening, Hickenlooper cited studies that rank the state above most others.

And he pointed out that in 2010 – when he took office – Colorado ranked 40th in job growth.

“Now, three years later, in that same ranking, Colorado has the fourth-fastest job growth in the nation. Fortieth to fourth,” he said.

After a lengthy recitation of positive news did, he laid out his goals for the Legislature in 2014.

Tops on the list was a reform of the telecommunications law. Legislators have tried and failed several times in recent years to update the regulations.

“Rural and other unserved parts of the state should have the same broadband Internet access as urban areas,” he said.

The line brought another standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans.

He also wants to reduce average wait times at drivers’ license offices to 15 minutes, down from an hour currently. And he aims to increase the state’s rainy-day fund to 6.5 percent. Three years ago, it was down to 2 percent, a cushion of less than two weeks. Most Republicans support the effort and have been clamoring for years for a larger reserve fund.

And Hickenlooper said he’s committed this year to strengthening fines for gas and oil spills. His administration helped scuttle a Democratic bill last year that would have raised fines on the industry.

If the past two years of disaster and violence have worn on Hickenlooper, he didn’t betray it Thursday, and he urged legislators to prove they can work together to strengthen the state.

“I’m all in,” Hickenlooper concluded.