Yet Hickenlooper’s broad discussion of several issues facing the state – a speech that often did not bring up his own agenda – might have been purposeful. Unlike previous years, Hickenlooper refrained from calling out specific legislators or issues, a sign that he might be encouraging the split legislative body to work together, said Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, the newly appointed Senate president.
“I think what was interesting about this speech, as opposed to many others that I have heard, (was that) he talked in such broad categories that I think what he was really doing was inviting everybody to the table to discuss them,” Cadman said.
Hickenlooper was careful to call attention to elected leaders from the Republican Party in the House chamber, among them Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who the governor credited as being one of the driving forces behind a program that brings independent contractors to Colorado communities.
“This further demonstrates that no one party has all the good ideas,” Hickenlooper said of Bach, a Republican, who was in the audience.
The State of the State address of Hickenlooper’s second term offered what Cadman called “a very comprehensive review” of the challenges facing Colorado. While the governor began by praising his initiative to create a statewide water plan, he also touched on budget issues facing education, retail marijuana sales, oil and gas development and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a 20-year-old act that requires the government to reallocate surplus tax funds.
In his speech welcoming lawmakers to the opening day of the legislative session, Cadman also invoked TABOR, but unlike the governor, his mission for the surplus funds was specific – send them back to the people.
On Thursday, the governor stuck a moderate tone on the law, notably avoiding a position on either side of the issue, Cadman said.
“He didn’t really lay out a specific TABOR agenda,” Cadman said. “He just said we need to not fail future generations.”
Cadman was encouraged by the open-ended nature of Hickenlooper’s remarks, which could help keep the door open between a divided Legislature.
“It was so wide-open,” Cadman said. “It was somewhat lacking in specifics and I think that’s what is going to encourage the next 115 days of engagement.”
Not all lawmakers found hope in Hickenlooper’s broad terms.
Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, vice chair of the Senate appropriations committee, thought the speech skipped over some pressing concerns.
“I think the priorities here need to be more transparent,” Lambert said. “I think you’ve got to get down to the details.”
He was particularly concerned about Hickenlooper’s efforts to wrangle more funding for education, and potential budget moves that could deplete the state’s education budget.
Although Hickenlooper lauded Colorado’s health insurance exchange for helping residents get Medicaid coverage, Lambert believes the uptick in residents using the state-run program has had a negative impact on the state’s budget, which sucks from things like education funding.
As TABOR funds could be an option for lawmakers for the first time in a decade, Lambert, too, thinks that the state has much work to do when it comes to determining those funds’ future.
“He said in some of his speeches, within the last month, that he supports TABOR but we have some major TABOR issues,” Lambert said. “That’s going to be the thing. He seems to be silent on that.”
While it has been two years since Colorado had a split Legislature, it is not Lambert’s first time facing two chambers divided between Republicans and Democrats – in the past it worked well, he said. Even while the governor remained optimistic about the about ability of both parties to cooperate, Lambert hopes that legislators won’t blindly accept the governor’s projections.
“It does require sensitivity and collaboration, but I don’t think the Legislature is also going to take all of the governor’s request strictly on face value,” Lambert said. “I think they need to analyze these carefully.”
Published: January 16, 2015
Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0198