Moderate Hickenlooper sets tone in speech that appeals to many

DENVER — Gov.  John   Hickenlooper earned just as many accolades from Republicans as he did Democrats when he delivered his first State of the State speech Thursday.

That’s because the moderate Democrat talked about things both parties liked, from ensuring education is properly funded to making sure new laws don’t place unnecessary burdens on small businesses.

The new governor was cheered by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle when he called for them to add regulatory- impact statements to any new bill introduced into the Legislature, much like the fiscal-impact statements it already uses.

Then, near the end of his 25-minute address, Hickenlooper earned a standing ovation from all 100 lawmakers when he called for both parties to work together.

“A lot of people don’t think the state can operate in a nonpartisan way for the benefit of Colorado,” the governor told a joint session of the Legislature. “We don’t agree.”

The governor also won applause from both sides when he said:

Businesses want to locate in states that have strong public-education and higher-education systems;

The state shouldn’t make current budget decisions at the expense of future generations; and

Everyone in the state needs to become players in helping Colorado recover from the recent recession.

“There was a lot of hope and inspiration in what the governor had to talk about,” said Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction. “We are going to disagree on some things, but for the most part moving forward takes cooperation, takes putting those boundaries aside to some degree to be able to move forward. I totally enjoyed his speech.”

King said the governor talked about a lot of things important to the Western Slope, such as jobs, water and reviewing existing laws to ensure they’re working as expected.

Hickenlooper also said that despite efforts to the contrary, lawmakers shouldn’t try to roll back last year’s controversial Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, which called for converting aging coal-fired power plants on the Front Range to burn natural gas instead.

King said he still has some concerns about how that new law will be implemented, but he supports it along with many others in the Legislature.

Other Republicans said they respect Hickenlooper because he is a successful businessman who understands government’s true role.

“We like him because he’s a guy who’s signed paychecks,” said Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton. “I’m sure eventually we’ll have our disagreements, but when he’s really doing his job is when he upsets both sides.”

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said Democrats, too, respect the new governor, adding his speech sets a tone for others to follow.

“The loudest applause he got was when he talked about the nonpartisan nature of his leadership,” Shaffer said. “To hear Democrats and Republicans stand and cheer for that says quite a bit. He set the right tone for this legislative session.”

Former congressman John Salazar, who now is Hickenlooper’s agriculture commissioner, said the governor’s comments on water show he’s not a typical Front Range elected official.

In his address, Hickenlooper said water is key to the state’s economic future, and he vowed to protect farms and ranches from drying up to benefit growing cities. Salazar said that means the new governor will look at a variety of ways to protect the state’s water supply and its quality.

“The governor understands the importance of water in this state, and he knows that he can’t destroy one area to build another one,” said Salazar, who listened to the governor’s speech with his former colleagues on the House floor. “We’re going to work with the Hickenlooper administration to find the best solutions possible so we can live together as a community without fighting with each other all the time.”


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