Imagine a Great ColoradoNews

BARBARA O’BRIEN | Five goals for Colorado’s next governor

Author: Barbara O'Brien - July 31, 2018 - Updated: August 10, 2018

Barbara O’Brien

COMMENTARY: This is part of our series of contributed essays, “Imagine a Great Colorado.” See below for more.

It was the honor of a lifetime to serve as Colorado’s 47th lieutenant governor.  Talking with people everywhere from small towns to cities gives you a deep respect for the character of the state.  Driving from Grand Junction to Alamosa takes you through orchards, the magnificent Black Canyon of the Gunnison, mountain passes and horses grazing in sunlit pastures.

Colorado’s next governor will have an opportunity to touch the lives of five million citizens and the responsibility to care for our land and water.  He will have the power to create or stifle opportunity by what gets his attention and by what he ignores.

These five goals would give the next governor ways to invest in the lives of Coloradans and the future of our great state:

• It would be a difficult goal to accomplish, but the next governor should do what is needed politically to remove TABOR, Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment from the state constitution. These  constitutional amendments have been called everything from a fiscal Gordian Knot to a python squeezing state and local budgets. Mr. Governor, take your sword and cut the knot or smite the python.

• Re-establishing fiscal flexibility would create the foundation for the second goal, to invest in education for preschoolers through young adults.  Other states with similar student demographics have the education funding for extra enrichment in the curriculum and extra academic interventions for students that are behind, and  they produce better achievement for all students.  There has been a decline in public funding for training and postsecondary education for decades, despite projections that by 2020, 74 percent of Colorado’s jobs will require some form of postsecondary education.  Education and training are at the heart of lifelong opportunity.

Harper Kaufman, co-owner of Two Roots Farm, works on a piece of ground in Missouri Heights near Aspen. (Associated Press)

• Third, the cost of health insurance is sucking money from small business and the self-employed.  The next governor should find a way to reduce the cost of health insurance.  The payoff will be a stronger economy and more a more resilient small-business sector.  Colorado is healthier because of improved access to care.  The next governor should lighten the burden of health insurance on the more than 1 million Coloradans who work for themselves or for a small business and who contribute so much to our neighborhoods and communities.

• The fourth goal leans on former Gov. Bill Ritter’s work to create a new energy economy for Colorado and the nation.  We deserve a new governor who has the imagination to create an energy technology moon shot for Colorado that will be a source of research, jobs, economic development and smart energy usage for decades to come.

• Last, although our energy problems can mainly be solved in the cities, our water problems can mainly be solved through rural agriculture.  Make Colorado the AgTech capital of the world – with the goal of achieving a sustainable, low-water agricultural industry that will be the envy of the nation and ensure the financial strength of Colorado family farms for generations to come.

More essays

> DAN NJEGOMIR | Imagine a great Colorado: 7 perspectives on how to lift up the state

> NEIL WESTERGAARD | To move forward, Colorado must move beyond tribal politics

> MARK HILLMAN | Hold government accountable — and call off the culture wars

> LUCIA GUZMAN | Bridge the partisan divide to pursue our highest priorities

> ELLEN ROBERTS | Resource stewardship, fiscal prudence and independent thinking

> TOM NORTON | Build infrastructure for people, goods, information — and water

> PATTY LIMERICK | Forge new bonds between urban and rural Colorado

Barbara O'Brien

Barbara O'Brien

Barbara O’Brien, a Democratic former lieutenant governor of Colorado, is an at-large member of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. She also served as the longtime president of the Colorado Children's Campaign and was head speechwriter and deputy director for policy for former Gov. Dick Lamm.