Hickenlooper: Economy improving, but more work needed

Governor John Hickenlooper

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

While economic prospects for Colorado have improved, Gov. John Hickenlooper believes efforts must continue to promote business, entrepreneurship and job growth in the state.

Bipartisan efforts also will be needed in the Colorado Legislature to avoid other problems, among them the recurrence of the devastating wildfires and a mass shooting that took place in the state last year.

“We have an obligation to prevent similar tragedies. This isn’t a Democratic or Republican agenda. It’s a Colorado agenda,” Hickenlooper said during his State of the State Address.

Hickenlooper was mostly upbeat in his assessment of the Colorado economy. “After a historic recession and several challenging years, our economy is back.”

Still, he mentioned a number of initiatives designed to help make Colorado “the best state for entrepreneurship and business.”

Hickenlooper cited the “TBD Colorado” program, an effort to involve citizens in developing a state economic development plan.

To cut red tape holding back development, more than 7,500 state rules and regulations were reviewed and more than half were changed or repealed, he said.

The governor said his office has begun an inventory of state assets and he hopes to work with the  secretary of state to develop a suite of services to help businesses grow.

Hickenlooper urged passage of legislation designed to support advanced industries, but offered no additional details. He also called for legislation to reform the Enterprise Zone program offering tax credits for new jobs, jobs training, capital expenditures, employee-sponsored health benefits and rehabilitation for vacant buildings. While acknowledging the program has helped promote the start and growth of businesses, he said it was time for an update that was both “fair to taxpayers and responsible in extending benefits to support development.”

Advances in drilling technology that have resulted in increased energy production have helped to make America energy secure “for the first time in modern memory,” Hickenlooper said.

But in wading into the debate over local regulations and drilling moratoriums, he said, “What doesn’t work is a patchwork of rules and regulations.”

Hickenlooper reiterated his support for increased use of compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel and also supported the advancement of renewable energy sources.

In addressing other issues, Hickenlooper called on the Legislature to consider gun control measures. “Why not have universal background checks for all gun sales?” he asked.

He also called on the Legislature to enact civil union legislation and allow undocumented children access to higher education.