2017: A Year End Reflection

Last year may have ended in a whimper with the election of Donald Trump, but this year has marked a true high point in my life. Traveling from county to county — having the chance to campaign across Colorado — has been an experience of a life time!

Though I was born and raised in Colorado, this campaign has afforded me the opportunity to meet Coloradans from all backgrounds, and to connect with Colorado in a new way.

As Washington struggled with a dysfunctional Congress and a maniacal president, I took the time to focus on local issues. I have spoken with middle class families struggling to make ends meet, teachers concerned that they are not being fully equipped to educate our kids, and young people in rural areas whose schools are only open four days a week. Through the thick and thin, I have constantly learned new things from connecting with voters across our state.

Here are my main takeaways from 2017:

1. Colorado needs a better economic vision.

While stock prices are soaring, economic opportunities are limited for far too many Coloradans. I would hope that all of us support initiatives to expand opportunities to the middle class and to narrow the income gap, but most ideas proposed by Republican and Democratic leaders alike fall short in one way or another.

As a Democratic candidate for Colorado Governor, I’ve unveiled my plan to dramatically transform economic opportunity in our state.

I believe that re-thinking how we train our workforce is the biggest untapped economic opportunity in America. The key to unlocking this opportunity is creating the nations first statewide youth apprenticeship system, right here, in Colorado. Colorado will redefine how we connect our education system to the workforce — we will prepare our people for the jobs of tomorrow and expand opportunity for all. This program better prepares students for industry certificates, associate degree’s, bachelor’s degrees or even doctorate’s, all while improving students’ prospects for graduating high school, and actively fighting income inequality by offering student’s apprenticeship wages in the last two years of their high school education.

Colorado students will have opportunities to gain on the job work experience unlike anywhere else in the country, and Colorado’s next generation of workers will provide stability, and continued growth in Colorado’s economy for years to come.

By the time my service as Governor concludes, I imagine that Colorado will be a national leader in creating economic opportunity in the 21st Century. Our economy will be a source of middle class jobs, and a beacon to the rest of the country as a friendly place for anyone hoping to start a new career, build a new business, or raise a family.

Colorado’s economy is going through many of the same changes that the rest of the country is facing. We are seeing booms in certain industries, but opportunity is not being created for everyone. Housing costs and the costs of living are rising, as wages stay stagnant or fall, as data shows income inequality continues to rise in our state. Many of the people who were raised here or who are longtime residents of this state have not been enabled to share in this expanding economy.

2. Colorado is facing a funding crisis

Colorado is in a much different state today than it was 25 years ago when TABOR passed. Few areas make this contrast more clear than the influx of roughly 100,000 residents moving to Colorado each year.

As more folks move here, there is an increased burden on our government to provide more public services — roads and bridges, energy and electricity, high-quality education, and affordable healthcare to name a few — but the revenue our state is collecting falls far short of what we need. There are a few key measures in Colorado to blame, at the top of the list, is TABOR, Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Since 1992, TABOR has required Colorado to return small checks, in amounts of about $10 to $15 per person, to taxpayers. Over time, these small refunds have added up to over $5 billion. While these state funds could have been used to strengthen our higher education system, rebuild our infrastructure, and improve Coloradans access to healthcare, TABOR has prevented CO from reinvesting state savings.

Through periods of economic growth, and recession, TABOR has strangled our government’s ability to properly fund education and other essential public services — today the costs of this bill are clear.

Due to outdated policies like TABOR, over 50 percent of our school districts — primarily in rural communities — operate for only four days a week. There aren’t enough teachers for our classrooms, and many teachers point to low, unlivable wages as a primary reason for leaving the profession. By 2019, our state won’t have a penny to put towards funding our state college system.

This is in 21st century Colorado — we aren’t providing the most essential service for our children — a high-quality education — this is not who we are. In debates, townhalls, and conversations across the state, Coloradans know we need a change — they tell me.

That’s why I’m proposing TABOR 2.0. Within the first two years of my administration I will ask the voters of Colorado to remove the outdated spending formulas from TABOR, while keeping in place citizens’ right to vote on any new taxes. As a fiscally responsible Democrat, I am confident that we can enact commonsense reforms make sense for a modern Colorado.

3. A more sustainable future can start in Colorado

Colorado doesn’t have to wait for Trump to grow a conscience. Colorado can — and must — lead right now.

Colorado is home to the largest number of national research labs in the United States, some of the best research universities, an abundance of natural resources, and an exceedingly skilled workforce. We have an opportunity for our state to lead the nation in clean energy development so our people can enjoy cleaner air, cheaper electricity, and access to an abundance of green, middle-class jobs. An investment in clean energy is not only good for our environment, but it’s good economics too.

Leading the energy transformation from fossil fuels to renewable energy requires fierce leadership and accountability. My clean energy plan aggressively pursues increased adoption of renewable energy technologies that utilize our natural solar, wind, and geothermal resources to create sustainable energy without raising energy prices for Coloradans. This transition will bring sustainable, high paying jobs to Colorado, revitalize communities where wind and sunshine are abundant, protect the natural resources that make our state so special, and combat the impacts of climate change, to ensure a healthy future for our people and our state.

My plan for a more sustainable future isn’t just about energy — it’s about protecting public lands, rethinking water quality and usage, making the investments our state needs in its decaying infrastructure. By rebuilding and modernizing our infrastructure, we can solve multiple challenges: creating good jobs, reducing congestion, improving safety, and cutting emissions.

Our campaign has always been different. We’re offering bold — but real, feasible, honest — solutions that will create more pathways to the middle-class, strengthen our education system, and change lives.

We can expect 2018 will shake things up in Washington — this campaign is about ensuring that real change reaches Colorado as well.

Noel Ginsburg is the founder of CareerWise Colorado, America’s first state-wide high school apprenticeship program that crosses multiple industry sectors, a manufacturing CEO, civic leader, and native Denverite.

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