Gov­er­nor calls for col­lab­o­ra­tion

Hick­en­looper: Leg­is­la­ture must tran­scend pol­i­tics, re­lax bud­get caps

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Frank and Joey Bunch

In an elec­tion year marked by par­ti­san ex­tremes, Gov. John Hick­en­looper called for col­lab­o­ra­tion in his State of the State ad­dress Thurs­day, even as he drew clear lines on his top pri­or­i­ties. Hick­en­looper, a Demo­crat, re­it­er­ated his push to re­lax the state’s bud­get caps un­der the Tax­payer’s Bill of Rights and gave Repub­li­can op­po­nents two op­tions: Ex­empt the fees paid by hospi­tals to al­low more spend­ing this year, or over­haul TA­BOR.

“If we can’t make this very rea­son­able change, like many al­ready al­lowed un­der TA­BOR, then what choice dowe have but to re- ex­am­ine TA­BOR?” Hick­en­looper said, ref­er­enc­ing a move to con­vert the hos­pi­tal provider fee pro­gram to an en­ter­prise fund. “Right now, no one can say with a straight face that our bud­get rules are work­ing for us.”

“Coloradans know we’re not fully fund­ing education,” he con­tin­ued. “They’re fed up with traf­fic con­ges­tion. They’re fed up with pot­holes. And they’re fed up with our in­abil­ity to ex­pand our high­way sys­tem.”

The 42- minute speech of­fered Hick­en­looper an op­por­tu­nity to de­fine the pa­ram­e­ters of the bud­get fight that will con­sume the 120- day leg­isla­tive ses­sion that be­gan Wed­nes­day and out­line his agenda for the di­vided leg­is­la­ture.

The so­lu­tions, he as­serted, must tran­scend the party pol­i­tics in the pres­i­den­tial con­test. The theme he of­fered: “Ci­vil­ity leads to col­lab­o­ra­tion. Com­pro­mise leads to progress.”

“Right now, our con­flicts aren’t serv­ing us— con­flicts in our state con­sti­tu­tion, in this build­ing and cer­tainly not in Wash­ing­ton,” he said to the joint ses­sion of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly. “In to­day’s pol­i­tics, we revel in get­ting our way with­out giv­ing an inch, and stop­ping the other guy from get­ting any­thing done. We’ve made th­ese the only things that count as wins. And the Amer­i­can peo­ple lose. This ‘ You’re ei­ther with us or against us’ men­tal­ity hurts our state and our coun­try, and it un­der­mines our democ­racy.

“Let’s strive, Imean re­ally try, to be more bi­par­ti­san this ses­sion. Let’s forgo cheap shots in fa­vor of ci­vil­ity and pro­duc­tive di­a­logue.”

The tone is clas­sic Hick­en­looper, a gov­er­nor in the se­cond year of his se­cond term who po­si­tions him­self as a mod­er­ate prob­lem­solver — a rep­u­ta­tion that is draw­ing in­ter­est at the na­tional level.

But it’s a mes­sage wear­ing thin for Repub­li­cans. State Rep. ClariceNavarro, R- Pue­blo, said ,“The gov­er­nor talks a good game. How­ever, I’ve yet to see a strong ef­fort on the part of the gov­er­nor to work with Repub­li­cans in the state leg­is­la­ture, and I don’t be­lieve this year will be any dif­fer­ent.”

And Hick­en­looper’s fo­cus on a se­ries of flash points in his speech — from the bud­get to cli­mate change— con­flicted with his talk of com­pro­mise forRepub­li­cans in the au­di­ence.

As the gov­er­nor fin­ished his speech, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bil­lCad­man, the state’s top GOP law­maker, quipped from the dais: “Well, we do agree on the Bron­cos.”

“The first days are pomp, and the next 118 days are cir­cum­stance,” Cad­man said af­ter the speech. In the gov­er­nor’s ad­dress, he added, “We saw the pomp.”

Hick­en­looper’s de­sire to find new rev­enue sources to pay for state pri­or­i­ties, such as education, health care and roads, con­flicts with the viewof Repub­li­can lead­ers, who as­sert the state needs to bet­ter spend the money it col­lects, not ask for more.

“We are go­ing to have the largest bud­get in our his­tory,” Cad­man said. “And when ( Democrats) talk about th­ese bud­get cuts, all they are re­ally talk­ing about is re­duc­ing the growth rate of govern­ment pro­grams. We are not ac­tu­ally talk­ing about any cuts.”

Hick­en­looper also used the ad­dress to de­fend ad­min­is­tra­tion pri­or­i­ties un­der scru­tiny from crit­ics, in­clud­ing the de­ci­sion to ex­pand Med­i­caid cov­er­age to low- in­come res­i­dents un­der the fed­eral health care lawand his de­ci­sion to im­ple­ment the Clean Power Plan, which the state’s Repub­li­can at­tor­ney gen­eral is chal­leng­ing.

To tackle the state’s trans­porta­tion needs, the gov­er­nor dis­missed a Repub­li­can plan to is­sue about $ 3.5 bil­lion in bonds to pay for road im­prove­ments. With­out newrev­enues, Hick­en­looper said, “that’s like try­ing to drive your new truck across the state with a dol­lar’s worth of gas.”

The re­mark demon­strated the par­ti­san di­vide in the cham­bers, as Democrats stood to ap­plaud andRepub­li­cans mostly re­mained silent in their seats.

Rep. Joe Salazar, D- Thorn­ton, hopes the gov­er­nor’s mes­sage res­onated with the pub­lic.

“I’m hop­ing the con­stituents out in the ru­ral ar­eas start lean­ing on their rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors out there and say, ‘ Hey, look, we have to ad­dress ... K- 12 education, we have to ad­dress our roads. So, please, let’s start to com­pro­mise,’” he said.

In the end, all par­ties put aside the political talk to con­grat­u­late Hick­en­looper on his en­gage­ment to Robin Pringle. The cou­ple plan to marry in a small cer­e­mony Satur­day.

As the gov­er­nor and his fi­ancée pre­pared to leave af­ter the ad­dress, Cad­man stopped him.

“Since we weren’t in­vited, we thought it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to of­fer you an of­fi­cial send- off fromthe newly ren­o­vat­edHouse,” Cad­man said.

The cou­ple turned to see law­mak­ers shower them in rice as they walked the aisle.

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Gov. John Hick­en­looper ar­rives in the House cham­bers to give his an­nual State of the State ad­dress at the Capi­tol. The gov­er­nor’s speech lasted about 45min­utes on Thurs­day.

Leg­is­la­tors sur­prise Gov. John Hick­en­looper and his fi­ancée, Robin Pringle, by throw­ing rice on the cou­ple af­ter the gov­er­nor’s an­nual State of the State ad­dress. He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

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