Ritter touts plans to stave off downturn

DENVER — Colorado needs to make tough choices to confront the state’s declining economy, Gov. Bill Ritter told state lawmakers Thursday during his State of the State address.

“Families and businesses throughout Colorado are facing challenges they haven’t seen in generations,” Ritter said. “Families are making different decisions, setting different priorities and sacrificing. Just like every family in Colorado, we’ll need to make tough choices here in the Capitol.”

Ritter said that through a series of tax credits, economic incentives and other measures, Colorado should be able to weather the national downturn.

Amid his speech, however, the governor said he does not plan to back away from a series of new energy regulations, which Mesa County’s state lawmakers have warned could damage the state’s waning oil and gas industry.

“This session, I’m asking you to finalize rules passed unanimously by the oil and gas commission, to improve the quality of energy development in Colorado,” he said.

As Democrats erupted in applause, Mesa County’s representatives, sitting two rows in front of the governor, abstained from celebration.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said he appreciates the governor’s desires surrounding the rules but that the Legislature needs to do its job and not merely rubber-stamp the energy rules.

Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules are one issue where she does not think Colorado’s economy will be well-served.

Beyond the energy rules, Western Slope lawmakers praised the governor’s focus on turning around the state’s economy.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said Ritter’s focus on bipartisanship was an important reminder that leaders of both parties, Republican and Democrat, have to work together this year.

Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said he appreciates the governor’s desire to work together toward resolving the economic crisis but that many of these steps should have been taken sooner.

“It’s unfortunate that you have to reach a crisis point before people deal with issues that should have been acted on before the crisis,” King said.


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