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Gov. Hickenlooper calls state of Colorado "strong" in State of the State address

Suggests marijuana tax be used to help homeles
Posted at 10:56 AM, Jan 12, 2017

DENVER -- Since taking office in 2011, Governor John Hickenlooper has given a State of the State address each year. Amid a volatile political climate, this year's was slightly different. 

A changing political climate in the U.S. could create challenges in Colorado, but there are many positives in the state.

READ: Full text of Gov. Hickenlooper's 2017 "State of the State" speech.

Gov. Hickenlooper outlined a growing population, booming business and a low unemployment rate. From 2011, when he said 200,000 were unemployed, to just six years later with more than 400,000 new jobs created, he spoke to many of the state's successes, but also pointed to places in which the state can improve.

From available WiFi, improvements in transportation, better education, available healthcare and more -- the governor said he has lofty goals for the state.

In his own words: "Giddyup. Let's get to work." 

Work begins with the transportation needs of the state. According to Hickenlooper, the state has $9 billion in transportation needs that are unmet over the next decade. 

He pointed to the need to find new sources of revenue and the need to levy taxes to meet the needs, as he said cuts can only help those in rural areas. 

Those in rural areas can already struggle, he said, noting their success can help improve a chink in Colorado's strong armor. 

"We're bullish on partnering with rural economies on every intractable issue: from broadband to job training, to our energy economy and clean air and clean water," he said. 

He called on the state to continue investing in rural economies, outlining plans to establish a point person on the ground to spearhead rural economic development. That could help bring resources to communities that need them. 

Growing the economy as a whole is a goal, and increasing resources to those in need, including in rural communities, and to those who need healthcare and WiFi, are crucial to help make Colorado the "best in the West and in the U.S.," Hickenlooper said. 

But as the state becomes more alluring, it also becomes more expensive. Gov. Hickenlopoer said "homeownership is too far out of reach. Too many people and not enough units adds up to unaffordable rents and skyrocketing home prices." 

He called on the state's lawmakers to pass legislation on construction defects that nearly passed last year. He called for developers to continue building affordable housing throughout Colorado. 

 

Focuses on Homeless

The Governor says despite Colorado's booming economy, homelessness continues to grow.

He suggested that the state use marijuana tax revenue to "help those that fall through the cracks, including hundreds of vets."

"We will also provide training so they can find and keep jobs," he said.

The Governor said the investment will not only change the lives of those most affected by substance abuse, it will also save the state money.

"We currently spend more than $40,000 per person to perpetuate lives of misery among the chronically homeless, but for less than a third of that, we could invest up front in housing, wraparound supportive services and job training."

Sheila Whiteside told Denver7 she doesn't know if that proposal would help her, but she's glad to hear the Governor talk about it.

"My husband and I are currently homeless," she said. "We live in a tent, because housing is too expensive."

Whiteside said they pitched their tent in the Denargo Market area and were awakened by a jackhammer yesterday morning.

"They placed a sign that says we're now trespassing," she said. "They gave us paper notices last night that said we have until Thursday to move our property."

Whiteside she was heartbroken by the move.

"I mean, where can we go," she said. "What can we do?  We can't afford the average apartment in Denver."

She added that having a roof over your head goes a long way toward helping to get your feet back on the ground.

 

Future

And on the future as a whole? Hickenlooper said Colorado needs to continue to act as a trailblazer state. 

"It is clear that the new administration and Congress seek a different relationship between the federal government and the states," he said. 

He quoted Justice Louis Brandeis, who claimed states are laboratories of democracy. He went on to say he expects more responsibility will fall on Colorado. 

Hickenlooper said, "History has its eyes on us." 

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