With the 2009 legislative session now officially over - the 30-day review period for me to take action on all bills ended June 5 - it's important to take stock of all that was accomplished.
As a Colorado native with dozens of relatives, including four children, who call Colorado home, I was keenly aware this session of how each and every budget decision and legislative action would impact people all across the state.
But despite the worst economy in 75 years and despite being forced to close a $1.4 billion budget shortfall, Colorado's families, businesses and communities will enjoy immediate benefits from the work we did this session. And just as important, they also will gain from the strategic investments we made in our future - investments that will lead Colorado toward a strong recovery.
I laid out my goals for this legislative session in my State of the State Address in January. In nearly every area, we achieved our goals. Among the legislative session's highlights, we:
•Established a new incentive that will help create jobs, attract new companies and retain existing businesses.
•Provided businesses with direct access to capital and loans to help them get through this tough economy.
•Strengthened job-training programs at community colleges for students looking to enter the New Energy Economy work force and other Industries of the Future.
•Helped struggling families with measures that extend unemployment benefits and provide a foreclosure "time out" to responsible homeowners.
•Provided more than 100,000 uninsured Coloradans with access to health care - the most significant health reform in Colorado in 40 years, and at no additional cost to taxpayers or businesses.
•Created the first new sustainable funding source for transportation in nearly two decades, creating thousands of jobs and allowing for the repair of unsafe bridges and roadways statewide.
•Advanced Colorado's globally recognized New Energy Economy, creating new jobs and making renewable energy and energy efficiency more affordable for all Coloradans.
•Enacted another major education reform, allowing students to simultaneously earn high school and community college degrees and, in the process, lower the dropout rate.
•Avoided a $300 million cut to higher education and prevented double-digit college tuition increases.
•Convened a bipartisan coalition to take the next step forward in addressing Colorado's outdated and conflicting fiscal mandates, doubling the state's "rainy day" reserve fund and establishing predictable funding for transportation.
While the cynics, skeptics and special interests will focus only on the few pieces of legislation that generated controversy this session, we made historic progress in job creation, health care, education and transportation.
More than two years ago, I laid out a vision for building a vibrant economy that creates jobs and expands opportunities for all Coloradans. After the 2009 legislative session, I believe more than ever that we are on the right path. Colorado will recover from this tough economy stronger than before, and we are increasingly well-positioned to provide the opportunities our children and grandchildren deserve.
Bill Ritter is the governor