Bill Ritter: Navigating an economic storm | SteamboatToday.com

Bill Ritter: Navigating an economic storm

— Our country is in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in generations. For months, the national economy has been sliding backwards. Wall Street, Main Street, families, family-owned businesses and retirees all are struggling.

While Colorado’s economy has been holding steady and even making gains, we are not insulated from the turbulence and turmoil around us. This is why I am recommitted to strengthening our economy, developing our businesses, and creating new opportunities through education and in emerging 21st century sectors like the New Energy Economy, biosciences, aerospace and technology.

It also is why I announced a series of pro-active and preventative actions last week that will give us greater flexibility should state revenues dramatically decline. In order to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure the state is able to continue providing essential services, I thought we needed to take prudent actions today in case Colorado’s fiscal condition worsens in the weeks and months ahead.

These precautionary measures include:

– A hiring freeze for Executive Branch agencies, except for essential personnel or those critical to protecting the health, life and safety of Coloradans. While this order does not apply to state government operations outside of my authority, I am pleased that several of them, including the Judicial Branch and Education Department, have followed suit.

– A freeze on the start of construction for new capital projects across the state through January 2009.

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– A request that the issuance of grants for the construction of new full-day kindergarten classrooms be delayed.

– A directive to all department heads that they work with employees to scrutinize their budgets for additional savings. As part of this, we will be reviewing findings from the Government Efficiency and Management (GEM) Performance Review to see if any of the cost-saving recommendations can be accelerated. The GEM Review identified $205 million in savings and benefits during a five-year period.

These precautionary measures will delay spending of more than $85 million and allow us to continue serving as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. If, during the next few months, we determine these precautions have served their purpose and are no longer necessary, they will be reversed.

Fortunately, Colorado’s small businesses, extremely educated workforce and our hard-working residents form the backbone of an extremely diverse economy. Because of this, I remain confident and optimistic about Colorado’s economy and Colorado’s future.

Bill Ritter

Colorado’s 41st governor