Globalization, for all its consumer and business attractions, presents a true challenge to our economy. Among other things, it creates a real prospect that we will let the essential link between innovation and manufacturing fail. I believe that Colorado will prosper if we work to encourage strong manufacturing capabilities to match strong research and development. However great our product development may be, alone it is inadequate. Retaining manufacturing capacity is essential to creating a competitive edge for Colorado. The shortage of skilled workers in this country and in the state is another significant threat to our manufacturing firms. We need to work to ensure that our education and training programs match industry needs. If we work to invest responsibly in Colorado’s future, our economy will continue to create manufacturing jobs.
To improve economic opportunity and attract more jobs to Colorado, we must revitalize our postsecondary education, technical as well as academic, making it the powerhouse of Colorado’s economy. Our goal should be to double the number of our students who attain technical certificates by 2025, as well as the number who graduate from college. As a step toward that goal, we should develop policies to help students plan postsecondary paths while still in high school and tie together high school and postsecondary programs of study. It is also essential to strengthen our community college system, since it offers vital technical courses of study. However, quite the opposite has occurred recently. No sector of Colorado’s postsecondary system was hit harder by budget cuts in recent years than community colleges. Prior to the passage of Referendum C, there were very real threats that several community colleges would close. I am proud to have supported Referendum C.
Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare:
Colorado impacts retirement issues most directly in its own retirement system, the Public Employees’ Retirement Association. PERA has been a political, and regrettably partisan, football recently. I strongly support PERA’s remaining a defined benefit plan and continuing to be fiscally sound. A strong retirement system is the most meaningful support we can give to hard-working employees.
Colorado also has choices to make concerning Medicaid. Making the Medicaid program more efficient and effective will be a cornerstone of the health care reform process that I am pledging to undertake and that I discuss in broader detail in response to the following question. We will review all aspects of the program —from the eligibility determination and enrollment system, to provider network adequacy and reimbursement, to services and quality of care for enrollees.
Many of Colorado’s businesses, particularly its small businesses, are struggling to provide health insurance to their employees while still maintaining their competitiveness. I know from conversations that both employees and business owners across the state are worried about access to quality and affordable health care. Some businesses delay hiring new workers or making additional investments in their operations because of their escalating health care costs. For some business owners, the cost has become too great and they have reluctantly decided to stop offering health insurance to their employees. At the same time, many workers are worried about their health care security, concerned that their employers will no longer provide coverage, or will shift so much of the cost of coverage onto their shoulders that they will find it unaffordable.
We face a health care crisis that will not be fixed by tinkering around the edges. As Governor, addressing health and health care will be one of my key priorities. We need fundamental reform that will only successfully come from bringing all the interested parties to the table to develop a Colorado Health Plan. I commit to a year-long process to develop such a plan. I will provide leadership by bringing all of the parties to the table, ensuring that everyone is contributing to the solution, and laying out the guiding principles – most fundamentally, that a set of proven and effective basic benefits should be available and accessible for all Coloradans, that health care should be affordable and financed in a cost-effective manner, and that quality health care should be available and easy to access regardless of where one lives in the state.
To date, the national government has simply refused to tackle the health care crisis head on. States have increasingly taken matters into their own hands, and Colorado needs to follow their example. Colorado cannot sacrifice the interests of its citizens to Congessional impasse.