Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Senate President Shaffer Echoes Request to Focus on Jobs

Senate president Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said in his opening day comments that the Senate would focus on job creation this year.

Shaffer, who took over as leader of the chamber last year when former Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, left for a job in the Obama administration, told colleagues that he would also expect a focus on solving the state's budget problems.

Those priorities echo similar remarks by House speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver.

The text of Shaffer's remarks follows:

"We start this decade with a promise borne of hope – hope this legislature will lead Colorado to a better future.

"We face no easy task. We expect no easy solutions. Our problems will not be solved by slogans, but with hard work and sacrifice.

"Each member of this body represents a unique region of our state. But more important than where we are from, is who we represent: The people of Colorado.

"We are here for school teachers and farmers, police officers and office workers, construction workers and miners. We are here for the mother who struggles to get her kids to school while getting dressed for work; for the father who barely gets by paying both the home mortgage and college tuition; for the senior citizen living on the state retirement pension wondering if it will still be there in five or ten years. We are here for every employer, worker and veteran, every parent, senior and child who call Colorado home.

"For their sake, we must put aside partisanship and embrace cooperation. This is not a time to enlarge the divide between Republican and Democrat. It is a time to provide for the prosperity of our people.

"Let our questions be honest, our debate be civil, and our proposals be genuine.

"Every day Colorado families and small businesses grapple with the effects of a global recession. Families sacrifice necessities and small business owners make painful cutbacks. Hard working employees see their benefits cut and many have lost their jobs.

"The gravity of our circumstance demands unity of purpose. This session is not about platitudes; it is about getting the job done.

"Starting today, we have two goals: create good jobs and balance our budget.

"Just as Franklin Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.” Our legislation will focus on developing a 21st century workforce and creating jobs. Just a few of the ideas we will bring forward include:

* Job Retraining Accounts for employees to open accounts with tax benefits for education and retraining;
* Health care jobs to consolidate loan programs for health care professionals who serve rural communities;
* Renewable Energy Standard to increase investment in our New Energy Economy, and attract new jobs and investment capital to our state;
* And, Senator Penry and I will sponsor legislation to put PERA, the state’s retirement fund, on a stable financial path.

"As these bills and others move through the General Assembly, we will simultaneously work to balance our budget.

"Our budget will be lean and responsible. Declining state revenues require substantial cuts in the services the state provides; however, we will craft a budget that keeps our communities safe, our classrooms open, and our hospitals accessible.

"Undoubtedly, there will be differences of opinion about how to balance the budget. That is a hallmark of a strong democracy. Let us allow our differences to strengthen the policy that ultimately comes out of this body. Instead of becoming entrenched in partisan politics, let us listen and compromise and work together to produce a budget that serves the needs of Colorado.

"While our agenda will focus on creating jobs and balancing our budget, we will continue to make progress in areas such as education reform, health care affordability, and government efficiency.

"A better life for our children depends on their ability to compete in a global marketplace. A good job requires a good education. We will improve our measurement tools for student success and teacher performance. This will strengthen our schools and our competitiveness in Race-to-the-Top; a competition among states based on innovation and achievement in education; a race we intend to win.

"Coloradans need good health care. Last year we added health care coverage for 100,000 people. This year we will expand access to primary care for rural Coloradans. We will end gender discrimination in health care coverage and we will require greater transparency in prescription drug pricing.

"Finally, in recent years we have achieved greater accountability in government. Indeed, today is the first time in history the Senate is televised for all Coloradans to see. We will continue this trend as we work to build trust and confidence in the peoples’ government.

"Our task is to lead Colorado to a better tomorrow. Our agenda is to create jobs and balance our budget. We were sent here in difficult times to solve difficult problems. And solve them we will.

"We are Coloradans and we will stand firm. We refuse to allow our current troubles to steal our children’s future.

"We are Coloradans and we will endure. We will confront these challenges with the determination of our founders.

"We are Coloradans and we will lead the way. We will ask the tough questions, work the long hours and make the difficult decisions to serve the people of this great state.

"May we undertake these tasks drawing on the deep reserve of good will within us, the respect of our colleagues, and a sense of common purpose to serve well those who sent us here.

"God bless you all, and God bless the great state of Colorado."