Colo. Democratic leaders say jobs top priority for coming legislative session

DENVER– Gov. Bill Ritter, Senate President Brandon Shaffer and House Speaker Terrance Carroll told a crowd of mostly media gathered on the west steps of the Capitol this afternoon that the majority-party legislative agenda this session would focus on creating and maintaining jobs in the state and balancing the budget. The three men also underlined the value they placed on a bipartisan approach to achieving their priorities. A scheduled conference called by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper who would be announcing his candidacy for governor just hours later, however, hung over the event and suggested how difficult true bipartisanship might be to effect this election year.

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“The economy is recovering but state revenues will lag that recovery by a fiscal year,” said Ritter. “Since the fall of 2008 we three have worked on the budget together. We’re moving forward with that plan. Our focus is on creating jobs. Our focus is on balancing the budget.”

Ritter again referred to the New Energy economy in the state as a long-term economic project. He said he would lead a move to raise the state’s 2020 targeted Renewable Energy Standard by another 10 percent.

“We raised the standard put in place by voters in 2007 from 10 percent to 20 percent. Raising the renewable standard to 30 percent will create jobs.”

Ritter said efforts to replace education evaluation tools such as CSAP was part of the effort to create a workforce that would feed the New Energy economy.

Standing in cowboy boots and staring into a blazing sun, the three men traded turns at a press-conference podium and spoke almost exclusively about the state budget and the economy.

Shaffer said the Democratic agenda centered on the budget and the budget centered on jobs.

“We have to put people back to work. That’s how we’ll afford education.”

Carroll described the coming legislative session set to open Wednesday as “epic.”

“We’re focused on how jobs are developed and maintained. We are going to continue to right the economic ship of state.”

He said Colorado was among the top five states in maintaining employment.

“We haven’t waited for Washington. We’re ahead of national levels. And that’s because we have adopted a non-ideological approach,” he said.

In November Colorado tallied a 6.9 percent jobless rate well below the 10 percent average national rate.

The three men underlined a commitment to fiscal responsibility. Carroll added that lawmakers would strive to sustain vital “care services” by looking for more efficient leaner ways to operate them.

In seeking to emphasize the value they placed on bipartisanship, Shaffer said he had been outlining legislation with Senate Minority Leader and former gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry. He said a bipartisan approach this session would be essential if lawmakers were to tackle the “difficult challenges” the state faced.

In the question-and-answer session that followed the remarks, though, talk turned immediately and almost exclusively to the gubernatorial election and Hickenlooper’s run against former Congressman and Republican frontrunner Scott McInnis.

“Why would you endorse Hickenlooper?” someone asked Carroll.

“Hickenlooper has strong experience as a businessman.” Carrol said. “You know, not like his opponent.”

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John Tomasic

Writer, editor, teacher, web wrangler. He has worked for art, business, culture, politics publications, five universities and a UN war crimes commission. @johntomasic
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