It was the honor of a lifetime to serve as Colorado’s 47th lieutenant governor. Talking with people everywhere from small towns to cities gives you a deep respect for the character of the state. Driving from Grand Junction to Alamosa takes you through orchards, the magnificent Black Canyon of the Gunnison, mountain passes and horses grazing in sunlit pastures.
Colorado’s next governor will have an opportunity to touch the lives of 5 million citizens and the responsibility to care for our land and water. He will have the power to create or stifle opportunity by what gets his attention and by what he ignores.
These five goals would give the next governor ways to invest in the lives of Coloradans and the future of our great state:
• The next governor should do what is needed politically to remove TABOR, Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment from the Colorado Constitution. These amendments have been called everything from a fiscal Gordian knot to a python squeezing state and local budgets. Mr. Governor, take your sword and cut the knot or smite the python.
• Re-establishing fiscal flexibility would create the foundation to invest in education for preschoolers through young adults. Other states with similar student demographics budget funding for extra enrichment in curriculum and extra academic interventions for students who are behind, and they produce better achievement for all students. Public funding for training and postsecondary education has declined for decades, despite projections that by 2020, 74 percent of Colorado’s jobs will require some postsecondary education. Education and training are at the heart of lifelong opportunity.
• The cost of health insurance is sucking money from small business and the self-employed. The next governor should find a way to reduce that cost. The payoff will be a stronger economy and a more resilient small-business sector. Colorado is healthier because of improved access to care. The next governor should lighten the burden of health insurance on the more than 1 million Coloradans who work for themselves or for a small business and who contribute much to our neighborhoods and communities.
• The fourth goal leans on former Gov. Bill Ritter’s work to create a new energy economy for Colorado and the nation. We deserve a governor who has the imagination to create an energy technology moon shot for Colorado that will be a source of research, jobs, economic development and smart energy usage for decades to come.
• Last, although our energy problems can mainly be solved in the cities, our water problems can mainly be solved through rural agriculture. Make Colorado the AgTech capital of the world — with the goal of achieving a sustainable, low-water agricultural industry that will be the envy of the nation and ensure the financial strength of Colorado family farms for generations to come.
Barbara O’Brien, a Democratic former lieutenant governor of Colorado, is an at-large member of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. She also was the longtime president of the Colorado Children’s Campaign and was head speechwriter and deputy director for policy for former Gov. Dick Lamm.