Here are the remarks delivered by Senate minority leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, during this morning's opening ceremonies:
"Thank you Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader and fellow members for this opportunity. It is an honor to stand before you.
"Mr. President, recognizing that Democrats control all of the levers of government here in Colorado – the Executive Branch, the House, the Senate – I’d like to begin this session by moving that the 67th General Assembly adjourn, Sine Die.
"Mr. President. I was joking. I withdraw that motion.
"I speak for each of my colleagues in the Republican Caucus when I say: we’re present, we’re voting, we’ve got a full agenda, and a full commitment to moving this great state of ours forward.
"Mr. President, the Senate Republicans are ready to get to work.
"Before I go any further, I want to join the President in welcoming our new Senators. Serving behind these desks, in this room, with all the opportunities and responsibilities that entails, is a tremendous honor. And so congratulations to you all.
"In particular, I want to take a moment to introduce the newest Republicans in this body – Senators Keith King, Mark Scheffel and Al White. All will add smarts and savvy to the General Assembly.
"And to the families of all of our members – especially the spouses and children of Colorado’s Senators – your service deserves recognition too. I’m reminded of the time I was walking in a 4th of July Parade when I spotted an elderly gentleman who was wearing a faded hat that read: WWII veteran. When I saw him, I scooted over, reached out my hand and said, “Thank you for your service to America, Sir.” Before the man could respond, his wife jumped in and said, “What about me? I paid the bills and raised the kids while he was running around Europe!”
"And so it is for many of you, the spouses and children of the men and women in this body. Your service takes a different form, but it is no less important or real. In that vein, I would like to acknowledge my wife, Jamie Penry. Mr. President, this will not surprise you: I don’t hold the gavel in my household, either. Jamie does. And we are so blessed to have two great children. My six year-old-son Chase, and
my two-year-old daughter Emme.
"I would like to also introduce my parents – Dan and Linda Penry. They taught me to dream and to work. And last, I want to acknowledge you, Mr. President. Your able and gracious and humble approach not only serves your own caucus but also distinguishes this entire body.
"A lot has been said about the historic significance of President Groff’s rise to the Presidency of the Colorado Senate. President Groff has shattered barriers. The same, of course, is true of Terrance Carroll, the new speaker of Colorado’s House, as it is to an even greater extent for the man from Illinois who will soon raise his right hand and take the Oath of Office for the Presidency of the United States.
"Now let me state the obvious: as a proud Republican, it’s no secret that my very strong preference would have been for 2009 to witness the christening of a President named McCain, a statehouse speaker called May, and a new Senate president from a place like, say, Grand Junction.
"But even in this Hall where party differences tend to dominate more than they ought, even here, we are Americans before we are partisans.
"And as Americans, it is important that we acknowledge with national pride what the electoral rise of men named Obama, Groff, and Carroll says about the progress of equality in our Republic.
"Even as we recognize the historic political events unfolding before our eyes, we also feel the grip of a very different and more troubling reality. And that reality is this: Colorado, like America, has fallen on very difficult economic times. These tough times paint the backdrop for much of what we do in the next 120 days. And these tough times will beckon the best-thinking – and tough choices – by us all.
"Unfortunately, we face these challenges at a time when confidence in government has scarcely been lower. The public has grown contemptuous of a political process that seems endlessly pre-occupied with the next election cycle – it’s called the permanent campaign, and the public is permanently sick of it.
"Members of the Colorado Senate, I know that we can take a time-out from the fast world of the permanent campaign and do the hard work of governing, of making tough choices, of leading. Let’s worry about 2010 sometime a little closer to 2010, and spend the next 120 days focused on the very real challenges of today.
"And there’s plenty that needs our focus.
"Our first and highest focus should be summed up in a single word. Jobs. Ronald Reagan once said a recession is when someone you know loses their job. A depression is when you lose yours.
"We may not but in a depression, but that’s small solace to a Mom or Dad who lost their job.
"These difficult circumstances should frame our mindset for the debates ahead. For every bill, every amendment, every rule and every regulation that comes before this body, the question should be asked: is it is good for our economy, will it promote job growth, will it make Colorado an attractive place for job creators? This question can be called the jobs test, and if any bill or amendment or rule fails it, we should have the good sense to fix it or defeat it.
"This General Assembly surely won’t agree on everything, but when it comes to the economy we should agree on this much: first, this legislature should do no harm. That means that this General Assembly should put the breaks on efforts to extend the influence of organized labor in our government and our economy. The protracted fights between labor and business in this state have been a catastrophic waste of resources and valuable political capital. Let’s focus our energy and efforts this year on creating jobs, not reliving the old fights of a bygone era.
"Resolving ourselves to do no harm also means that we should take a bipartisan approach to reviewing the Administration’s new natural gas regulations. Some of these new rules are warranted, but a handful of onerous and overreaching provisions are not. They will conspire with broader economic forces to kill jobs and reduce energy production at a time when Colorado – and America – need a lot more of both.
"Two years ago, thanks to a bipartisan agreement brokered by then-Senate president Joan Fitzgerald, this Governor was given a historic, bipartisan mandate to modernize rules that regulate energy exploration in Colorado. Colleagues, the terms of that bargain have not been met. In the next 120 days, this legislature should restore our compromise of two years ago.
"The final area where this legislature might feel a tug to enact policies that make things worse is in the area of taxes and fees.
"Now there isn’t one person in this room unaware of the difficult budget choices before us. We all get it. And yet we cannot ignore that many businesses and many families have a balance sheet or a check book that look at least just as bad. And in these perilous economic times we should be careful not to balance government’s budget in ways that knock the budgets of families and business out of balance.
"Many of you have probably read about the budget fight in New York, where their Governor – David Paterson – proposed 137 new taxes and fees to bring that budget in balance. Almost nothing was spared the governor’s revenue bulls eye. He even proposed new fees on soda pop – a so-called fat tax – and a new tax on iPod downloads. Cash-strapped families and businesses, understandably, have greeted Governor Paterson’s plan with red-hot outrage.
"Now again, I’m not here to say we are going to vote against every fee that comes along no matter what. There are many government services where a user-pays fee-based system is appropriate and fair. But as the first Senate Republican leader to own an iPod, and as a dad who needs an occasional Mountain Dew because his daughter kept him up all night, count me as a 'no' vote on both the iPod fee and a fat tax.
"And you can also count Republicans as a 'no' against the budget if it relies on new taxes and big fees to spare government from making the tough choices it needs to balances its budget.
"Now let’s go back to that jobs test for one minute. I just talked about measures we should fix or avoid, but I want to close by focusing on some meaningful job-creating measures this General Assembly can and must take.
"There’s another side to that jobs test, and that’s this:
"If a bill or an amendment or a rule improves the economic health of this great state – if it promotes jobs – let’s move forward together.
"As a first order of business, let’s come together and find a way to fund our critical road and bridge needs.
"Under the arcane rules of our budget, our roads and bridges receive the last dollar of general fund when times are good, and they are the first funding victim when times turn bad.
"Let’s not use a bad economy as an excuse for continuing to treat our roads and bridges as a second-class budget priority.
"In that vein, our first objective should be fixing the most unsafe bridges. There’s more than 120 of them, and they need to be repaired yesterday.
"So let’s not wait. Yesterday, Rep. Mike May and I outlined a plan that would get those unsafe bridges repaired in 2009 using the same innovative financing tool that this General Assembly used to build new prisons and finance the construction of new schools and college buildings across the state.
"By leveraging a small portion of the billions in equity Colorado has in its state buildings, and dedicating a fraction of the state’s general fund and severance tax collections, the state of Colorado can quickly and conservatively put more than a half a billion dollars and thousands of Coloradans to work fixing unsafe bridges.
"Our bridge plan has three primary benefits.
"First, it’s the only plan out there that gets significant new transportation investment into our struggling economy quickly – by late this spring. That means the bridges get fixed quicker, and our contractors get to work sooner.
"Second, our plan leverages existing assets and resources. Colorado has billions in capital assets that are literally just sitting there. Republicans say let’s put those assets to work in a way that helps meet the very real needs of this state.
"Third, this financing approach works. We know it. The legislature and the Governor have used it to fund other critical state projects many times before, and the courts have validated it.
"A final footnote on the transportation issue: we believe strongly in the approach I have just outlined, but we know that Governor Ritter, Senator Gibbs and Senator Romer, and Representative Rice and Representative McFadyen and many others have ideas of their own. And we welcome those and the opportunity to work together in good faith. But let’s not wait for January to become February to become the waning hours of the session before we forge a transportation agreement. Let’s do it now, in
the opening hours of these 120 days. Let’s show that government can make positive change and quickly.
"There will be a number of other proposals from Republicans that will improve the jobs situation in Colorado.
"We believe the best way to kick-start economic recovery is to cut taxes on business investment and job growth. President-elect Obama made the same argument earlier this week, and we agree. Senator Kopp will introduce a bill to eliminate an outdated surcharge on business. And Senator Scheffel is introducing legislation to exempt thousands of businesses from the job-killing business personal property tax. Rather than throwing money at new programs that may or may not work, let’s build on the bipartisan successes of last year and exempt a new round of businesses from the job-killing, business personal property tax.
"Energy is fertile ground for Colorado jobs too. Republicans in the House and Senate will introduce a package of bills that, together, implement an “all of the above energy” strategy in Colorado – more wind, more coal, more solar, more natural gas, and, yes, nuclear, too.
"And finally, Mr. President, we are eager to continue to press the cause of reform and standards and choice in our schools. Talk of a good economy is just idle bluster without strong schools to train our kids.
"Mr. President, Mr. Majority Leader, Fellow Senators, between now and the moment that someone comes to this microphone to move – in earnest – that we adjourn Sine Die, there’s much to be done and the stakes are high for Colorado.
"The only thing to do now is to get started, so let’s.
"Thank you Mr. President and Members of this Senate."