House speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, called on his colleagues to focus on the state's economy during the 2010 legislative session during his opening day remarks this morning.
Carroll, who is in his last term as a state representative, said the legislature should focus on developing the clean energy industry, strengthening job training programs, and making budget cuts that will not cause significant harm to the state's families and communities.
The text of the speech follows:
"I, too, sing America.
"When the Harlem Renaissance author Langston Hughes penned those words in 1925, America was booming.
"In Colorado, myths about fast fortunes made from silver and gold yielded to firmer economic opportunities – opportunities grounded in Colorado’s northern oil fields and southern steel mills. In Colorado’s fertile wheat fields out east and mineral deposits out west.
"Colorado’s once-desolate high plains became a critical part of America’s breadbasket. The Rocky Mountains – once barely traversable – became the nation’s backbone, and with the completion of Moffat Tunnel, a vital part of the state’s economy.
"Yet this state and this nation’s exuberance was obscured by harsher realities. America’s horizon, in fact, was littered with unseen challenges.
"Langston Hughes recognized that challenges awaited – that we were a long way from realizing liberty’s full potential. And yet, he saw promise peeking out:
"'Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table, for I, too, am America.'
"Well, tomorrow has become today, and while this nation remains imperfect, the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st , produced undeniable achievements.
"In retrospect, the signposts toward progress appear clearly marked. But it’s a mistake to read history as an inevitable march forward. For each signpost precedes a bend in the road. And each bend foretells an immense challenge requiring difficult choices, clear leadership, and the will to act.
"It’s only ten years into this century, and America is already shuddering under the weight of an immense burden.
"Two wars, two recessions – one nearly resulting in economic collapse – disasters both natural and man-made. If anything, history’s long march, which rarely presents time to exhale, is speeding up.
"Today, though better than yesterday, again presents this nation and this state with new challenges.
"Challenges that require critical choices, clear leadership, and the will to act.
"The choices we make today – both within this room and without – matter to Colorado’s families. They matter because tomorrow is not yet written.
"But when tomorrow is written, history’s burden will be on us to show that in this building, in this room, in this year, we are standing up for Colorado’s families. We are fighting for small businesses and we are working hard to create new jobs. We are steering the state toward recovery.
"While Colorado’s economy has been hit hard by the recent recession, we’ve shown ourselves to be incredibly resilient.
"That’s no surprise: we’ve been here before. The Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859, promised droves of gold prospectors quick fortunes and bright futures. But this region’s true identity only took shape when the “free gold” – the gold that was easiest to mine and pan for – was exhausted.
"That’s when Coloradans were forced to innovate. That’s when the great ideas and new technologies that shaped our state and its dynamic economy sprung into being. That’s when our true character was forged.
"That’s what we do in Colorado: we hit a bump, and then we change. We diversify. We get along.
"Colorado is a state of unique communities. And while Denver and Durango, Westminster and Walsenburg on the surface don’t seem to share much, they do share the same strength of character and trailblazing attitude that make them thrive. We don’t wait around for progress. We don’t wait for Washington. Instead, we lead the way to recovery!
"Ranking in the top five states for business, and with an unemployment rate a full three points below the national average, Colorado has a record to be proud of.
"The lynchpin of our economy is small business. And nothing is doing more to drive the creation of small business than New Energy.
"Nearly 20,000 new green-collar jobs that can’t be outsourced and 1,800 new companies – almost all small businesses – are attributable to the innovation our leadership is providing.
"But we’re not settling for the status quo.
"This session will bring new legislation to increase our renewable energy standard – the amount of power utility companies are required to generate from “green” sources – from 20 to 30 percent by 2020.
"This bold initiative will make Colorado’s clean energy standard one of the most aggressive in the country, and stake our state’s claim as an undisputed leader in New Energy. I thank Governor Bill Ritter for leading this ambitious effort.
"This green initiative and others will continue to make it easier and cheaper for families to move to renewable energy. It will continue to bring jobs and firms like Vestas and ConocoPhillips to Colorado. And it will foster the small, homegrown businesses that are the bedrock of our state.
"Prosperity, however, is all about balance. It’s all about creating a diversified economy.
"Developing a sustainable market for clean, traditional sources of energy, like natural gas for use in Colorado will create jobs, drive down energy costs, and help break the vicious boom-and-bust cycles that hurt our local communities.
"That need for balance extends well beyond our energy sector. It means fostering an economy we can all participate in. That ambition drives us to create more job opportunities for doctors and nurses that want to deliver critical primary care to our rural and vulnerable populations.
"It pushes us to develop our burgeoning creative class by supporting industries like film and media, art and design. And it compels us to develop a workforce suited to our dynamic economy.
"Unfortunately, the high cost of higher education and barriers to job training and re-training often make it hard for Coloradans to jumpstart or advance their careers.
"That’s why we’re pushing legislation to help Coloradans develop skills to succeed and ease the way toward good, stable jobs. We’re expanding opportunity for Colorado adults who have been laid off or want to change industries to upgrade their skill-sets through job training; we’re making it easier for Colorado’s students to transition from two-year to four-year colleges; and we’re training our job force today for the high-tech, high-paying green-collar jobs of tomorrow.
"A strong economy begins in the classroom. And while our education system will be challenged this year, we remain committed to our kids.
"We are aggressively positioning our schools for Race to the Top, and moving away from CSAP toward a better, more comprehensive form of assessment.
"This downturn has focused our energy on job creation and economic recovery. On building a stronger Colorado with a more diversified and flexible economy.
"In that same spirit, the recent downturn has also demonstrated that building a stronger Colorado will require a smarter government.
"We’ve always had a small government. And in the past year we’ve made it even smaller. During the downturn we’ve already cut over a billion dollars from government spending, creating a leaner government with a balanced budget.
"We’ve cut in such a way that will allow us to focus on what matters most to people. I applaud the Governor and Joint Budget Committee for finding efficiencies while protecting core services as much as possible.
"But we're not done yet. This session we will continue to make tough choices and tough cuts to balance an additional $1.2 billion shortfall for the upcoming year.
"It is imperative, however, that as we continue to cut, we also take a systematic approach to remaking government, so it is not only leaner, but better and smarter too. So government programs are targeted and effective, and serve Coloradans well.
"This session, we will call on government agencies to be more accountable, to come up with clear goals for their programs, and plans for executing those goals.
"And we'll hold their feet to the fire through performance audits.
"Because if we don’t demand more accountability, the small government we do have won’t work.
"This state’s rich diversity and strong character compel more still from our state government.
"Our commitment to building a stronger Colorado requires more accountability.
"But it also means we have an obligation to stand up for people. It means making sure this state is an equitable one, where all people have a fair shot and get a fair shake. That Colorado is a state where people, not special interests, get their way.
"We will not tolerate special interests trampling on the many so the few can benefit. We won’t allow the same obstructionism, the same bickering and the same influences that corrupt Washington to corrupt Colorado.
"And we will not allow reckless partisan games to get in the way of you and your family’s prosperity. After all, times are tough enough already.
"That’s why we’re standing with Coloradans. We’re standing with Coloradans by advancing a sensible package of legislation that will keep politics clean; protect our neighborhoods; halt the cycle of debt perpetrated by reckless and dishonest lenders; stop medical fraud; and make life just a little easier for Colorado’s families.
"Members, as we prepare to begin the 2nd regular session of the 67th General Assembly let our thoughts this morning reflect a deep and abiding commitment to creating a better tomorrow. A better society.
"A society where our ideological differences do not outweigh our commitment to protecting our Rocky Mountain vistas; do not outweigh our commitment to conserving our fresh water and preserving our clean air; do not outweigh our commitment to promoting the common good for Colorado’s families.
"And let us pray our words and deeds do not become mere noise, because we have neglected the widowed, the poor, the orphaned, and those who seek justice under this dome.
"For they, too, sing Colorado.
"As we prepare to undertake this historic session, I’d to paraphrase the words of Thomas Paine:
“These are times that try men’s – and women’s – souls.
"Let us not shrink from our responsibility to this state and its people.
"Let us be bold and do what’s right for the people of Colorado.