Gov. Hickenlooper acknowledges Pueblo and El Paso County in final state of the state address

DENVER (KKTV) - Gov. John Hickenlooper's state of the state address Thursday was his last as governor. The entire speech can be watched at the bottom of this article.

"The joy of these past seven years has been every bit as intense, and just as sweet," Gov. Hickenlooper said nearing the end of his speech.

The governor touched on topics from education to infrastructure, highlighting El Paso County voters.

"El Paso County voted for new lanes on I-25. Coloradans want to invest in our quality of life, because of our affection for Colorado," Gov. Hickenlooper stated.

The governor says Colorado voters must be given the chance to decide how to fund the state's roads.

Hickenlooper told lawmakers in Thursday's state of the state address that recent progress in funding highways is well-needed - but not enough.

Democrats have long sought to ask voters to raise taxes to pay for an estimated $9 billion backlog in road repairs - not to mention billions of dollars more in anticipated highway needs. Republicans insist issuing bonds, not raising taxes, is the way to go.

The governor noted that Colorado hasn't raised its 22 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax in about 25 years. The tax helps fund roads.

He says the state has been driving "on a flat tire for about a quarter of a century."

He touched on the environment, specifically citing changes in Pueblo.

"Xcel has submitted a plan to close two coals plants in Pueblo," Gov. Hickenlooper explained during his speech. "This will clean our air and lower costs for consumers and lead to greater investments that support 21st-century careers. What is it the critics don’t like? Is it the cleaner air or the lower utility bills? Clean air matters. Xcel is also working with Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel, one of the cleanest steel plants in the world, to move toward renewable energy while protecting Pueblo’s future as a center for steel manufacturing. We need everyone’s support to make this a reality. Pueblo is known as Steel City, but soon it could also be 'Solar and Wind City.' Most of us agree that science shows climate change is happening at a significant rate in large part because of humans. But even those of us who disagree on climate change can agree that we need to protect the Colorado environment our grandchildren will grow to love. With a strong economy where they can find jobs.”

Many Republican lawmakers have strived to protect a struggling coal industry.

The governor urged lawmakers to address an underfunded public employees' pension fund; attack the opioid epidemic; and promote rural development to bridge the economic divide between the Denver metropolitan area and rural eastern and western Colorado. He insisted that his administration's emphasis on clean energy continue.

Near the beginning of his speech, he gave praise to a 7-year-old girl from Colorado Springs.

"We’re putting our faith in people like 7-year-old Ashley Scott from Colorado Springs. Two years ago, she started a holiday benefit and purchased blankets, socks and gloves for the homeless. This past year, she partnered with twenty businesses, her school, and the community to do even more. She said 'doing this makes me feel happy. The homeless need a Merry Christmas, too.' Ashley, we’re grateful for you," Gov. Hickenlooper said with a smile. "It’s a shame you’re not 23 years older. You could run for governor! Everyone else is doing it."

He ended with a personal catchphrase, "Giddy Up", to sustained applause from both sides of the aisle.