Here is the text of remarks delivered by House minority leader Mike May, R-Parker, during opening ceremonies at the General Assembly this morning:
"Mr. Speaker, Mr. Majority Leader, esteemed colleagues and honored guests, welcome!
"As there is much work to be done, my comments here will be brief.
"Actually, as most of you know, as recently as a few weeks ago, I wasn’t planning to be here this session, so I didn’t have a great deal of time to write a lengthy speech. However, as my good friend John Lennon said: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
"So here I am back amongst all my rowdy friends. And we certainly have a lot of work to do!
"First, I need to say a special thank you. My wife Traci is here today. I want to acknowledge the personal sacrifice that she and my family have made for me to serve with you here in this body. All of our families make sacrifices for us to be here, so please, colleagues stand with me now to show them how grateful we are for their support.
"Years ago I had a sign on my office wall that read “There are no problems, only opportunities to succeed.” My friends, our opportunity to succeed is unmatched by those in recent times.
"As a nation and a state, we are facing perhaps the most challenging economic crisis in more than a generation.
"Colorado families are struggling, and they’re worried. They are concerned about our financial markets and their retirement funds, about keeping their jobs and their homes, and about educating and caring for their children.
"As Coloradans, we are an adventurous and tough-minded group. The problems we've solved in the past were often difficult and complex. But, we roll up our shirtsleeves and we get the job done.
"We will need this spirit of the west - the tireless and rugged courage that settled our state - to move beyond the problems that stare us coldly in the face today.
"This session, we must succeed.
"Like the budgets of many Colorado families, income levels aren't keeping up with expenses. And just like Colorado families, the state will need to tighten its belt a notch or two to adjust.
"Certainly there will be those who will be unhappy with the choices we must make - perhaps even some in this room. But we have an obligation to live within our means, and to do that this year will be more difficult than it has been in the past.
"Now, more than ever, it is apparent that the state should have been more fiscally responsible: We should have created a rainy day fund. When the sun was shining, we did not set aside money. Now, when it is raining, there is no money to set aside. But that doesn’t mean we can’t set the stage for better days. Now is the time to create the structure for future savings, to take the responsible course.
"And while we plan for the future, we must address today’s budget challenges. We will wrestle with shortfalls and federal mandates, and accommodate a state constitution with conflicting, and often confusing requirements, many of which disregard the immediate needs of Colorado citizens.
"In fact, I am reminded of the old Rubik’s Cube, where the correct twists and turns were always needed in the exact sequence to line up the colors on all sides. I never could figure out the Rubik’s Cube, but together, I am confident that we can solve the state budget puzzle this year.
"To do so in the current environment we will need the talent, creativity, and the commitment of everyone in this room. We will also need to agree on a few ground-rules, some family budget values, if you will.
"Our budget should demonstrate that we understand the importance of the duty, and the honor, that the people of Colorado have given to us.
"It should reflect our commitment to protecting jobs and to protecting our economy.
"It should reflect our commitment to keeping commerce moving by providing a safe and reliable transportation system.
"It should reflect our commitment to the future through a diverse, accessible education system for our children in Kindergarten through 12th grade, and on through college.
"It should reflect our commitment to supporting the industries that bring jobs and revenue into our communities.
"It should reflect our commitment to a government that is open and up front about how it spends taxpayer dollars.
"And it should reflect our respect for the freedom and opportunities that Colorado families deserve.
"Colorado is uniquely positioned to be a leader in energy, and with more than just a “New Energy Economy” - we need a “Stable Energy Economy.”
"You’ve heard it said before: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
"Now, we have several farmers and ranchers in the crowd, and surely they can appreciate the wisdom of that statement.
"Colorado has real potential to lead in the field of renewable energy. However, we are also incredibly well positioned to lead in other energy fields: oil and natural gas, clean coal, hydro-power, and even potentially nuclear power and oil shale.
"We live in a state that is blessed with many homegrown resources, and through responsible development, we can lead the country toward energy independence.
"What we must not do is sacrifice our economy - and the incredible number of jobs created by the oil and gas industry in particular. We cannot afford to drive away a thriving industry that is vital to many Colorado communities in these difficult economic times.
"As with all of our business policies, as we strive to do good, we must also be careful to do no harm.
"There is no ‘one’ right answer when it comes to energy independence. Instead, we need a diverse and responsible portfolio to make Colorado a leader in energy, and in turn to protect jobs and bolster our economy.
"A fundamental responsibility of government is to build and maintain our roads, highways and bridges. This is a responsibility during good times and bad.
"The stakes for us this year with transportation are high, indeed this is one of the greatest opportunities we have.
"And while Congress and the incoming administration in Washington have signaled that they may provide states with some additional transportation dollars, waiting around for the federal government to address the state’s needs is not a realistic option.
"Instead, the legislature must move quickly.
"By adopting an innovative financing method, we can use a relatively modest amount of money to secure substantial funding for this critical priority.
"Reliable and well maintained roads mean safer travel for Colorado families, fewer roadblocks for commerce, and an opportunity to put more people to work on our roads, highways and bridges.
"We must come together to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.
"Education is also an area where we cannot afford to lose focus, and the budget pressure on higher education this year will be enormous.
"Last year, by working together, we were able to make significant progress toward improving the quality of education for our students. As a result, the Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education are now cooperating to develop a seamless system to help our kids better compete in an increasingly competitive world.
"We also worked together to dedicate significant funding to make our school buildings safer for students from pre-school through college, to reward our best teachers, and to make up some lost ground for charter schools.
"We must continue to build on these successes.
"One of our great challenges this year in education is to keep higher education affordable for all those who strive to improve their lives.
"With so much of our budget protected by special requirements, our colleges and universities will find themselves in the same budget squeeze as those who wish to attend – ever rising costs competing for fewer dollars in a beleaguered economy.
"And that battered economy will result in many who have lost their jobs and look to our community colleges and universities to learn new skills for their future.
"Let’s commit to an open and honest discussion with our college and university presidents. Our goal should be to preserve hope and opportunity for a better tomorrow for all Colorado citizens who seek a higher education.
"The importance of a strong Colorado economy is an area where everyone in this room – Republicans and Democrats alike – should be able to agree.
"In November, election season came to an end. Now, in January, it is the time for us to come together and lead.
"Balancing our budget, protecting jobs, and bolstering our economy will require true leadership. If we fail to meet any of those goals this year, everything else that we do will matter little.
"This is our challenge.
"I hope that you will all join me in rising to meet it. We have shown in the past that we do our best work, when we work together.
"There is no choice but for us to succeed.