Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's State of the State address: 'Colorado does not quit'

6:38 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER - Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's annual State of the State address covers Colorado's recovery efforts on historic wildfires and flooding and an appreciation for first responders. 

READ: Hickenlooper's State of the State address

And with the Denver Broncos making another playoff run, the Democratic governor cheered them on - just like he's done in his two previous speeches. 

"On behalf of all Coloradans, I want to thank the Denver Broncos for giving us something to cheer about this season," Hickenlooper said.

It's been a tough 12 months for Hickenlooper as he enters his fourth year in office and seeks re-election. 

For the second consecutive year, he dealt with a devastating wildfire season. But the governor says the disasters shouldn't define Colorado.

"Throughout the summer, wildfires burned: the Black Forest, Royal Gorge, West Fork and Red Canyon," Hickenlooper said in his State of the State address.

And then there was flooding in September that killed nine people, destroyed or damaged nearly 2,000 homes, and washed out hundreds of miles of roads. 

Hickenlooper touted the state's successes in recovering from the disasters. 

"I want to thank my cabinet and senior staff, along with all state employees who have worked so hard, especially, this year," Hickenlooper said. "Our thanks to everyone who has been so dedicated to the flood recovery efforts, especially the Colorado National Guard, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety - and our volunteer Chief Recovery Officer, Jerre Stead, and his team from IHS. We are indebted to every one of you."

Hickenlooper cited last month's shooting at Arapahoe High School, and the shooting death last year of the head of the state Department of Corrections.

Hickenlooper says mental health efforts have been "overlooked" in the state's gun debate. A year ago Hickenlooper suggested expanded background checks for gun purchases.

Hickenlooper went on to sign a background check bill, plus a 15-round limit on ammunition magazines. Since then, two Democratic state senators have been recalled and a third resigned over the gun package.

This year, Hickenlooper says "guns are only a piece of the puzzle," He touted $34 million in mental health spending.

The governor also called for more bipartisanship and an emphasis on education.

Colorado should spend a big chunk of its budget surplus making college education more affordable, according to Hickenlooper.

The Democratic governor is talking about higher education in his annual address to state lawmakers.

Hickenlooper says he wants lawmakers to $100 million for public colleges and universities. The schools were cut dramatically during the economic downturn.

"In the wake of the floods, we proved our ability and commitment to rebuild bridges and roads," Hickenlooper said. "We've seen what can happen when we lose that infrastructure. But the single most important investment we can make in infrastructure is in our bridges to tomorrow - our children."

The governor also says tuition cap increases should be capped at 6 percent. His Democratic colleagues in the Senate have already proposed that legislation.

Hickenlooper celebrated the health care coverage website created for the state.

"The General Assembly, with bipartisan support, created Connect for Health Colorado," Hickenlooper said. "While other states have struggled with enrollment and implementation, Colorado has outperformed the national exchange and most states. More than 139,000 residents now have health insurance who didn't have it before."

Hickenlooper is known as an ally of the oil and gas industry. But he's hinting that he wants to see stronger penalties and fines for improper drilling.

Gov. John Hickenlooper says he's working with the Democratic Legislature on a bill setting tougher penalties for drilling violations.

Hickenlooper touted an air-quality proposal from his administration to set the nation's first statewide methane capture rule.

The governor is a former geologist who has clashed with his fellow Democrats in the past over regulating the oil and gas industry. Colorado is currently suing a Front Range community that voted to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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