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Legislative Year: 2018 Change
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Colorado Eyes & Ears »

Governor John Hickenlooper faces his last General Assembly in 2018, with his speech to the Joint House and Senate chambers tomorrow. 

Numerous accounts from various pundits across the nation, including the New York Times, say that he may run for president in 2020. A successful 2018 swiss replica watches of lawmaking may make him competitive with the current Democratic front-runner, Oprah Winfrey.  This means heavy lifting on problems that haven’t been resolved over seven years of his terms as governor.

First, credit due:  Hickenlooper should get many kudos for his health care policies that have successfully increased the number of Coloradans with insurance.  He set in place the insurance exchange that, in some cases, makes individual insurance cheaper for Coloradans than employer-sponsored health care.  The Exchange is running smoothly and doing the job envisioned by the Affordable Care Act, which, apparently, does work well when it’s supported properly.

Outstanding Issue No. 1:  Others say PERA or transportation.  But for the long term, the biggest problem is k-12 education funding.  This state will not have kids well prepared for their future in this state at current funding levels.  This fact has been true at least since 2008 with the recession, and has not improved under Gov. Hickenlooper’s watch.

The overly complicated 2013 initiative, written mostly by current candidate for governor Michael Johnston, got pounded by voters.  Hickenlooper delegated that project to Johnston, and then was lukewarm in his support. 

The Governor owes the children of this state an initiative in 2018 that can gain voter support.  He should expend maximum political capital to get a funding measure passed.  That would be the ultimate distinction for his record.

Outstanding Issue No. 2:  Everyday Coloradans are affected most by the transportation pretzel they experience all day long.  Somehow, Gov. Hickenlooper has to explain to Republican Senators that mortgaging Colorado’s taxpayer owned buildings is insufficient. To get millennial voters behind a substantial transportation investment, the Governor must do more for non-auto travel. 

As an aside, in case the pro-auto, libertarian Independence Institute hasn’t noticed, the acres of light rail parking at the Mineral Station on the Santa Fe line are packed by 7:30 am.  The Institute’s prediction that light rail wouldn’t work was wrong.  Other FrontRange cities need alternatives to cars too.  It’s time for the Governor and legislators and the Department of Transportation to get imaginative beyond mortgaging state assets.

Outstanding Issue No. 3:  Oil and gas drilling/fracking is roiling FrontRange communities.  Where are the pipes, cry Front Range home owners and city planners.  Too much regulation, cries the drilling industry.  The Governor and the legislature face hard questions as to their priorities:  the risks to the health and safety of citizens from drilling v. the environmental impacts v. the economic benefits.  Unless the oil and gas industry turns softer, the Governor will be forced to make decisions that will make a bunch of people unhappy.  Isn’t that why he’s governor and may want to run for president?

Outstanding Issue No. 4:  PERA – the state employee and public teacher pension funds.  The problems here are arcane at the micro level but easy to understand at the macro:  there’s not enough money to cover long-term expenses.  The Governor could try to work with educators on an education funding initiative that would solve problems with current low teacher salaries (see outstanding issue 1) and high pension costs. The largest question related to PERA and teachers remains:  how can teachers with a decade or less of employment in public education continue to afford their jobs? 

If the Governor succeeds in any one of these ongoing issues, it’s not enough.  He must succeed in all four.  That’s the cost of kicking the can down our potholed roads.

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