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Hickenlooper asks for help transforming Colorado

8:50 AM, Jan 14, 2011   |    comments
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During his first state of the state speech Thursday, Hickenlooper said he considered every Coloradan a member of his administration.

His call for a non-partisan approach to improving the state drew a long standing ovation from state lawmakers assembled in the House of Representatives to listen to the speech.

"A lot of people don't think the state can operate in a nonpartisan way for the benefit of Colorado. We don't agree," Hickenlooper said.

Without going into details, the new governor also sought to reassure lawmakers that he's prepared to help them slash spending to balance the state checkbook.

"This is not my first time at the deficit rodeo," Hickenlooper said, recounting budget problems he faced in business.

Hickenlooper laid out ideas to cut red tape for private businesses. One of his ideas: A new requirement for lawmakers to consider how regulations affect industry before approving those regulations. The suggestion got a hearty cheer from GOP lawmakers.

The new governor also suggested that lawmakers look at the state budget over several years, not just a single fiscal year. Hickenlooper didn't explain how exactly that would improve Colorado's finances, but he promised more details soon.

"Our state constitution requires us to balance the budget annually. We can do better," Hickenlooper said.

Without saying what exactly should be cut, Hickenlooper warned, "we are going to engage in very direct, very pragmatic conversations" about what state government can and cannot afford to do.

Hickenlooper also said he'd work to improve customer service for taxpayers dealing with state government.

Hickenlooper's vagueness won him praise from lawmakers in both parties.

"You didn't see him, come out and say, 'This is exactly what I want you to do,"' Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino, head of the budget-writing Joint Budget Committee.

New Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty was even more blunt when he explained after the speech why Republicans clapped so often at Hickenlooper's suggestions, especially his plans to look twice at new regulation.

"These are the exact things we've been talking about," McNulty said.

Hickenlooper unveils county-focused economic plan

Hickenlooper is proposing an economic plan that asks every county to develop its own vision of what kind of economic future citizens want.

He says collaboration with Colorado lawmakers on jobs is needed now more than ever, but it should start at the local level.

Hickenlooper says the top priority is creating jobs and jobs are created by the private sector.

He told Colorado lawmakers in a joint session on Thursday that he will support job growth while maintaining high ethical and environmental safeguards.

Hickenlooper says tough choices ahead on education

Hickenlooper says public education is a top issue for his administration, but he says there's no "magic prescription" for avoiding cuts.












He also told lawmakers Thursday that there is no sustainable means of funding higher education.

In his state of the state speech, Hickenlooper said his goal is to redefine the role of government to match what taxpayers can afford.

Hickenlooper proposes health care homes

Hickenlooper is proposing new health care homes for people with chronic diseases.












Hickenlooper says by adopting new standards and designs for new facilities, the state can substantially reduce the amount it spends on primary care.

He is also urging lawmakers to keep a hospital provider fee to subsidize hospitals. The program drew criticism from Republicans, who said there was no way to prevent those fees from being passed on to patients.

Hickenlooper: Consider regulatory impact of laws

Colorado lawmakers are being urged to look closely at the regulatory impact of any new laws they pass.

Hickenlooper said lawmakers should include that analysis along with the state fiscal impact statements already required for every bill.

He said lawmakers should know the cost of any additional regulations on businesses.

Hickenlooper said lawmakers should also look at the impact of every bill on economic growth, though it wouldn't be required for new legislation.

Hickenlooper consolidates 2 state health jobs

Hickenlooper has already begun consolidating state government to help the state cope with the continuing budget crisis.

Hickenlooper told lawmakers in his state of the state speech on Thursday that he combined the chief medical officer position and the executive director's job at the Department of Public Health and Environment.

He previously announced he was appointing Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia to also head the state Department of Higher Education.

The new duties for lieutenant governor may require legislation because his duties are spelled out in the constitution and don't include a Cabinet post.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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