Hick’s Rx: Less regulation, more broadband
Summit Daily News
BRECKENRIDGE – Wednesday afternoon, barely two months into his first term as governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper sat at the front of the Breckenridge Town Hall auditorium facing a packed room and a problem.
With a state generally unwilling to approve tax hikes and a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, the only option, aside from further cuts to the already butchered state budget, Hickenlooper told the crowd, is to get Colorado’s economy back on track by attracting new enterprises and helping existing businesses grow.
The governor proposed a plan that combines reducing government red tape with inspiring a new pro-business state culture.
Conditionally, he added, remembering his high-alpine audience.
“Now before you all start throwing fruit at me, because I know exactly where I am and I know this county, I say that only with the recognition and the understanding that we have to hold ourselves to the highest level of ethical accountability in our businesses (and) environmental accountability,” Hickenlooper said.
Unburdening businesses in the world of government regulation and permitting to promote economic growth, he contended, must be tempered by harsh penalties for those who take advantage of the system or abuse Colorado’s natural assets.
“We should create a situation so that as we do whatever business we’re doing in this state, we recognize that this is Colorado,” he said. “And we’re going to be doubly vigilant. We’re going to have to hold ourselves to higher standards than, I believe literally, any other state in the country in terms of how we protect our land and waters.”
Breckenridge and Summit County residents who attended the meeting listened to Hickenlooper’s plans before making their own requests for state actions to help promote local economic development.
Hopes for a state-wide campaign to abolish the Taxpayer Bill of Rights – a voter-approved measure requiring all tax increases to appear on the ballot – were not met with much enthusiasm, but other suggestions, such as the need for improved broadband infrastructure in the county, were well received.
Hickenlooper compared the spread of access to high-speed Internet to rural areas today to the spread of electricity decades ago, a process that was subsidized by the government.
“In the modern economy, there are a lot of people that are sick of living in cities,” he said. “They would love to be in smaller communities, but they have to have high-speed Internet. They can’t connect without that capacity.”
The meeting concluded with the governor signing two bills into law, both sponsored by Summit’s state House Rep. Millie Hamner and Sen. Jeanne Nicholson.
The first bill mandates that criminals who injure police animals during the course of an investigation or arrest pay for the animals’ veterinary bills or cover the cost of replacing the animal should it be killed. Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputy dogs Tommy and Bobby, who inspired the bill, attended the signing.
Hickenlooper also signed a bill requiring the Colorado Department of Transportation to make recommendations to state legislators on possible short-term solutions for the Interstate 70 mountain corridor.
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