Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado

DALLAS - With the economy on a healthy rebound, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper urged the General Assembly to create a non-profit enterprise to promote public-private partnerships in his state-of-the-state speech Jan. 9.

"We will propose the formation of a non-profit enterprise dedicated to fostering public-private partnerships to fund infrastructure projects such as transportation and water," Hickenlooper told lawmakers on the second day of the 2014 session.

"This will not only bolster economic development, it also will lighten the burden on taxpayers, and harness minds and resources outside of government to address unmet needs and keep Colorado competitive."

Hickenlooper framed the P3 proposal as part of his "lean government" initiative to stretch the state's revenue. Colorado operates under a constitutional Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) that requires state and local governments to return tax revenue to taxpayers if it exceeds a specific ratio. With the 2008 recession, surplus revenues have been hard to find, forcing deep cuts in education and other programs. Now, Hickenlooper said, the state is clearly on an upswing.

"This is our fourth consecutive year of economic growth," Hickenlooper said.

"Three years ago, we started with a budget that was facing staggering shortfalls," Hickenlooper said. "Because, together, we have made hard choices, been disciplined, not spent more than we have—we've put ourselves in the position to save more money for rainy days," referring to floods that hit the state last year after rampant forest fires in the summer.

"The single most critical factor in Colorado being able to stay open for business throughout hellfires and high waters has been reserves," Hickenlooper said.

"Three years ago, Colorado was setting aside only about 2% of its general fund money for reserves. That 2% gave the state only a seven-day cushion. Last year, we more than doubled that rate, to 5%. Our budget request is to grow the fund this year to 6.5%."

Hickenlooper said that the state's Tabor Reserves have grown to $48 million and that he was requesting that they be increased to $78 million.

"This money in reserve is what has enabled us to respond quickly to the disasters and get assistance to local partners," he said. "It's what enabled us to get roads rebuilt and open—ahead of schedule."

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