Governor: Roads, broadband need funding source

The state can’t afford to wait any longer when it comes to the state’s infrastructure, particularly when it comes to broadband deployment and improving the state’s roads, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Tuesday.

In highlighting what he thinks the Colorado Legislature should do with this year’s session that begins today, the governor singled out those infrastructure issues specifically as something the state can’t continue to put off.

But what form that takes, particularly when it comes to how to fund infrastructure improvements, is unknown.

“Along the Front Range, we take it for granted that we have high-speed, reliable, affordable internet, but 30 percent of the state doesn’t have that,” he said. “It’s almost completely in the rural parts of the state. It’s in our economic self-interest. It’s not huge amounts of money to make sure we have broadband around the state.”

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said he’s tried in years past to find some compromise that Republicans will accept to pay for such infrastructure, such as taking a health care program from the poor out from under constitutionally mandated revenue caps to free up money, but has gotten nowhere.

Now, he wants to know what their solutions are that Democrats would accept.

“Every time I try to explain to people ... why I’m right and the error of their logic and why they should recognize what I’m thinking makes sense, almost always they reject the premises of my ideas right out of hand,” Hickenlooper said. “The lesson I’ve learned, and I’m going to do it as hard as I can, is to create time to spend with (Republicans) and to really listen.”

Hickenlooper said the real problem is too much politics inside the Capitol. “A large majority of the state’s population, what they want doesn’t conform to what leadership of one party or the other envisions, is in their self-interest or what they view,” he said. “The solution is to try and get away from the political discussion, try to divorce wins and losses from the calculations that everybody in this building makes. Let’s force the discussion back to, what’s the greatest good for the greatest number of people?”

Like the past two years, this year’s Legislature is split, with Republicans holding a one-vote majority in the 35-member Senate, and Democrats still in charge of the House by a 37-28 margin.

As a result, both sides have to agree on whatever it is the state does to raise money for roads, and whether it wants to take on paying for broadband fiber optic lines connecting the state.

Hickenlooper said both are crucial if the state wants to continue to grow economically.

“Almost all of our infrastructure is under stress,” he said. “Every year that goes by, not only does congestion get worst, but the cost of solving it goes up.”


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