Hickenlooper hears policy ideas at TBD meeting
DENVER – Dozens of Colorado’s most influential attorneys, business leaders and policy experts met Tuesday morning and offered a number of ideas about how best to improve Colorado’s roads, schools and healthcare.
It’s the culmination of 70 meetings held across the state that drew a total of 1,250 citizens this past Spring as part of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “TBD Colorado” initiative, a privately-funded effort to engage the entire state to help drive important changes in policy.
“Here we have so many civic leaders who have engaged in TBD and had these discussions around early childhood education, funding for K-12 education, how we’re going to deal with our transportation, what are the possible solutions and what would they cost for healthcare?” Hickenlooper said following the meeting. “Trying to look at them all in conjunction with each other, which we’ve really never done before as a state.
“I think it’s what gives the state muscle, and sinew, and allows us to take on tough issues and go through tough times.”
At the meeting, the crowd of attendees were asked to split into groups and brainstorm on solutions in different policy areas including early childhood education, Medicaid and tax rates.
Many of them spoke about their ideas and noted that they would cost money, but Hickenlooper, who opposed an unsuccessful 2011 ballot initiative that asked citizens to approve a temporary tax hike to help offset cuts to K-12 education, was optimistic he wouldn’t have to ask voters to raise taxes.
“Part of the process is to look and see do we really need everything else that we’re doing? Are there other places we can find additional resources before we go to the voters. Maybe some of these things we can do without more resources,” Hickenlooper said.
At the meetings around the state, some of the most popular state imperatives were funding services for the elderly and disabled, improving access to early childhood education, maintaining the state’s transportation infrastructure and restoring the 1999 income tax rate, which would effectively raise taxes on Coloradans.
Hickenlooper said it would be several months before TBD staff puts together a written report of recommendations that will be shared with the legislature in November.
“I think there’s a great fear among a large number of people that there’s just way too much waste in government,” Hickenlooper said. “And as long as there is that tangible fear, we have a hard time asking for additional resources in almost any form.
“So part of this is that those of us in county government, state government and local government, we all have to redouble our efforts to build trust with people. We’ve got to do a better job communicating to people how we spend our money and why.
“It’s why I got into government, because I thought a lot of well-intentioned people weren’t spending their money as wisely as I would,” Hickenlooper said.
“That’s how I got sucked into this.”
Among the attendees at Tuesday’s meeting: Rockies Owner Dick Monfort; Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough; former state lawmaker Norma Anderson; attorney Cole Finegan, former Chief of Staff to Gov. Bill Ritter, Jim Carpenter; the Bell Policy Institute’s Wade Buchanan; Executive Director of the Colorado Dept. of Human Services; Reggie Bicha; CEO of the Colorado Non-profit Association, Renny Fagan; the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Tami Door; the Civic Center Conservancy’s Lindy Eichenbaum-Lent; James Mejia; Colorado Economic Development Director Ken Lund; activist Anna Jo Haynes; Mile High United Way CEO Christine Benero; former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien; Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia; former state Rep. Joe Rice; Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s Chief of Staff, Janice Sinden; DPS School Board Member Nate Easley; former CSU President Al Yates; CRL Associates founder Maria Garcia-Berry; Colorado budget director Henry Sobanet; and Hickenlooper’s general counsel, Jack Finlaw.