Guest Columns

DORE: MY TAKE ON THE 2014 STATE OF THE STATE

Judging from experience, there is a lot more non-sense than common sense with Hickenlooper

The Colorado Statesman

On Jan. 9, Governor Hickenlooper addressed a joint session of Colorado’s General Assembly to present the State of the State. As with many speeches, filled with platitudes and praise, it was short on substance. Contrary to my experience during the 2013 legislative session, where rural issues were forgotten and Republican bills were killed, the governor spoke about a new era of bipartisanship and a renewed focus on rural Colorado. I would like to take a moment and discuss my concerns with his speech.

The Governor mentioned improvements in rural Colorado and specifically referenced $3 million in grants to rural areas of the state. I appreciate the investment of $3 million to parts of Colorado that have largely been ignored, especially by this administration, but one has to question the wisdom of the policies he supported in 2013. With input from foreign special energy interests, the Governor and the liberal majority raised the renewable energy standard, which will cause rates to skyrocket for ratepayers in rural Colorado. Unfortunately, we may never know the full cost of this mandate, but one can easily surmise that it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investments to meet this new standard.

The Governor also quoted numbers of new jobs in rural Colorado, a drop in unemployment numbers and a better state of the economy. This may be true for the city and suburban areas around Denver, but I am not sure what parts of Colorado he is referring to. Economic development has been stagnant at best, and in many cases we see a consistent loss of jobs in eastern and western Colorado.

For example, he mentioned a drop in unemployment for Grand Junction. While this is technically true, the devil is in the details. The reason the unemployment numbers are better in the in Grand Junction, is because 8,700 people have left, moved out, given up searching for jobs and exhausted their unemployment benefits. They are now in other parts of Colorado — or other states — contributing in many cases to the unemployment numbers in those areas. It is disappointing to see the chief executive of the state of Colorado use the misfortune of others for his political benefit by distorting the facts.

I was surprised to hear the Governor promote a new business in rural Colorado that is, at most, 20 minutes outside of Denver city limits. While we all support new jobs for Colorado, it is disingenuous to promote this project as an economic boon for rural Colorado.

Don’t get me wrong; there are parts of the speech I support. The Governor mentioned increasing broadband access in currently unserved parts of rural Colorado. I want to see high-speed Internet in rural places that have not seen it to date. Our children in rural Colorado deserve the same access to high-speed Internet and the educational benefits provided to those in urban and suburban areas.

I see a real need for Coloradans to reach across the aisle and get things done. I cofounded the Colorado Legislative Rural Caucus, along with Adams County Senator Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, to stand up for rural issues. I hope this caucus will unite legislators what represent rural Colorado and support legislation that is good for the whole state. It is my hope that Governor Hickenlooper will consult with the rural caucus as we begin our work.

As the speech wound down, there is one line that stuck in my mind, “More common sense and less non-sense.” It would be refreshing if he would live by this statement, but sadly, in my experience last year, there was a lot more non-sense than there was common sense. The people of Colorado deserve better from their chief executive.

State Rep. Timothy Dore, R- Elizabeth, represents Elbert, Washington, Lincoln, Crowley, Kiowa, Bent, Prowers, Baca and Las Animas counties in the Colorado General Assembly.