Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his final State of the State address at the Colorado State Capitol, where he reflected on how far Colorado has come since 2011, when he became Governor of the state.
“In 2011 when we started, Coloradans were hurting. Over 200,000 people were unemployed, and countless more were under-employed. Six years, and almost 400,000 new jobs later, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Colorado’s history and the state of our state is strong,” Hickenlooper said.
With little time remaining in office, Hickenlooper didn’t spend much time boasting about how far Colorado has progressed during his time as Governor. Rather, he focused on challenges that lie ahead for Coloradans like cost of living, cost of infrastructure, and internet access.
Housing and rent prices have skyrocketed in Colorado, causing issues for many residents. Hickenlooper called for more affordable housing, saying there’s too many people in the state and not enough housing units.
“We have a housing crisis plain and simple. Many families are stuck or held down. Too much of their income goes to rent… and homeownership is too far out of reach,” Hickenlooper said.
While housing remains an issue, Colorado’s transportation needs stick out like a sore thumb. Hickenlooper said Colorado has $9 billion of transportation needs over the next ten years.
“In our neighboring state of Utah, infrastructure investment is a priority. Utah has about half as many people as Colorado but invests four times what we do to expand their road capacity every year. It’s Economics 101: smart investments in infrastructure create jobs and strengthen the economy,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper also cited a need to bring high speed internet to rural areas. He said only seven in ten households have access to high speed internet in Colorado. To combat the issue, Hickenlooper announced the creation of a broadband office to increase internet coverage access.
“Every school, hospital, clinic and home should have high speed internet… Tonight somewhere in one of these communities a high school student will sit in a parked car outside of her town library. She’ll huddle over her laptop, face glowing from the screen as she tries to finish her paper, because it’s the only place she can get Wifi. This isn’t right,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper called to lower the cost of health insurance for Coloradans, and he also pointed for more attention to mental health. He said being a healthy state means more than just taking care of the body. It means taking care of the mind too.
“Let’s not leave (mental health) to be addressed in our jails, and emergency rooms, and prisons. Let’s use this momentum to bring together the work we’ve already begun to create a comprehensive, statewide behavioral health plan that makes our system easier to navigate, more efficient, and more responsive,” Hickenlooper said.