Updated: January 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm
DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper will get married Saturday in a small private ceremony, kicking off a 120-day stretch of work where he will try to tackle a bungled budget with lawmakers during the 2016 General Assembly.
Hickenlooper, 63, got engaged to Robin Pringle, 37, two weeks ago. He said he proposed at their home in Denver.
“I manned up, right?” Hickenlooper said Tuesday in his pre-session media availability. “I had been trying to talk her out of it for months and she still seemed eager. … I just looked her in the eye and said ‘Should we do this? Would you be willing to get married and be my wife?’”
Hickenlooper will be busy this session trying to sell his plan to keep about $212 million in the budget instead of refunding it to voters through TABOR-mandated refunds.
“Go compare us to our neighboring states. Go compare us to our peer states to Minnesota and Tennessee. … We’re as tight a budget as anybody,” Hickenlooper said.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, approved by voters in 1992, mandates that state spending not increase beyond a certain rate without approval from voters. The 2015 tax year is the first time in several years that voters throughout the state will receive the refunds.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is proposing the state reclassify millions of dollars being collected as the Hospital Provider Fee and spent on Medicaid so it no longer impacts the TABOR threshold.
Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, has said it’s very unlikely Republicans in the Senate would give their needed support to the idea. Cadman held a press conference last week to unveil a legal opinion that said what the governor was trying to do couldn’t be done legally.
Still, Hickenlooper is optimistic.
“He was asking about writing a bill, so he’s obviously been considering is there a way we can find a compromise and re-categorize the Hospital Provider Fee revenues so that they don’t impact TABOR,” Hickenlooper said. “That’s a very good sign.”
Hickenlooper said his office will work with the non-partisan staff who drafted the legal memorandum on the issue.
That battle is the governor’s top priority during the 2016 General Assembly that begins Wednesday. On Thursday, he will lay out his priorities for the year in the State of the State Address to all 100 lawmakers from across the state.
Hickenlooper is expected to highlight areas of economic development and job growth in his speech, including a new project in Colorado Springs. Sources say he will talk about a big economic development win for Colorado Springs involving a new technology program.
Other than that, Hickenlooper said he hopes lawmakers will find funding for transportation infrastructure including widening the Interstate 25 corridor from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, increase broadband Internet access in rural areas and curbing the rising cost of higher education so students don’t graduate with “mountains of debt.”
The governor said he’s open to conversations about repealing the death penalty, noting that it costs millions to place someone on death row. And he said he’s deeply conflicted about proposals to allow doctors to prescribe fatal drugs to people in the final stages of a terminal illness.
Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644