DENVER — Working together on growing the economy was a common theme among four of the state’s leading lawmakers at a forum last week.
Four leaders from the two political parties sat down and discussed issues such as education funding, Medicaid expansion, transportation, health care, renewable energy and fracking during a legislative preview at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Dec. 14.
Speaking after Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., addressed the media during the 15th annual Colorado Press Association’s pre-legislative forum, House Speaker-designee Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver; Senate President-elect John Morse, D-Colorado Springs; Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, and House Minority Leader-designee Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, talked about the importance of working together to lower the 8 percent statewide unemployement rate.
“We have the same visions for the people of the state of Colorado, and the same vision for what we need to do in the upcoming legislative session,” Waller said. “That is to do our part to promote opportunity for the people in the state of Colorado. I believe people in this state want a paycheck more than they want an unemployment check. So, what we do during the next 120 days should be to promote the paycheck, and not the unemployment check. I’m looking forward to working on solutions or working on issues that help achieve that goal, and that goal is getting this unemployment rate down and getting people back to work.”
Ferrandino said the two parties have a serious job to do in the legislature.
“This job needs to get done in a bipartisan way,” he said. “We need to work together to get the work done. Our first priority is making sure that we work to accelerate and grow the state’s economy, and to connect more Coloradans with good jobs. After the great recession and it’s long, drawn-out aftermath, Colorado’s economy is on the mend. The unemployment rate is still too high, but it is coming down and home prices are recovering. Our job in the Legislature is to do what we can to strengthen this trend. We should make smart investments in economic development programs, like small business development centers and renewable energy. Above all else, economic prosperity requires bolstering our education system.”
With the Democrats retaking control of the Colorado House and keeping their majority in the Senate during last month’s election, Morse emphasized that the middle class is coming back. Waller said it sounded as though Morse said it’s only the Democrats who care about the middle class, though.
“We do work on bipartisan solutions together, and that’s normally what we do,” Waller said. “I just think (Morse) just stood up here and said, ‘Democrats care about the middle class. Republicans don’t.’ That disappoints me greatly. We do absolutely care about the middle class, and we care about working on bipartisan solutions for the people in the state of Colorado. Last year, over 90 percent of our legislation passed with wide bipartisan support. For the most part, we work together, and we work together very well to come up with the right solution for the people in the state of Colorado. There’s no doubt in my mind, at least in the House, we’re going to do that again this year, and I know we’ll do it in the Senate, too.”
Morse said helping Colorado’s middle class families achieve financial stability is a key.
He said continuing development of renewable energy, growing the state’s energy sector and investing in small businesses are vital.
Cadman said the 8 percent unemployment rate is still to high.
“Although Colorado jobs are growing at a pace quicker now than they were in the last 18 months, we still have not regained all that were lost since the recession hit,” Cadman said. “We’re still creating fewer jobs than folks that are looking for work. We continue to talk about job creation because it’s still the most important thing for Colorado families, Colorado citizens, for people across the country and, frankly, around the world.”
Cadman said Senate Republicans will continue to promote pro-business policies and hopefully send a message that Colorado is the place for businesses from other states to land that are sick of the policies that are driving them away from over-taxed, over-regulated and over-litigated states such as those in California, Illinois and New York.