Governor talks education, jobs in Vail | VailDaily.com

Governor talks education, jobs in Vail

Chris Outcalt
coutcalt@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyPhillips County Commissioner Bud Biesemeier, left, shakes hands with Gov. Bill Ritter in Vail, Colorado while Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon, second from left, waits to talk to the governor Tuesday
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VAIL, Colorado – Everyone in the packed Cascade Ballroom at the Vail Cascade was standing and clapping. Gov. Bill Ritter had just finished a short speech marking the beginning of the Colorado Counties Inc. summer conference and was making his way out of the room.

Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon walked after him.

There were a handful of people in the lobby waiting to get a few minutes of one-on-one time with the governor. When Runyon got his, he told Ritter that the members of a panel created to address Colorado’s pine beetle problem and other forest threats should spend some time traveling the state.

Several other regional groups dedicated to protecting the state’s forests have been in place for a while and panel created by the governor could benefit from visiting parts of the state and speaking with those groups, Runyon said.

“That’s the way to become effective,” Runyon said. “They just haven’t been funded.”

Forest health and pine beetles weren’t a big part of a Ritter’s speech. He highlighted things the state is doing on education and economic development.

“We made good progress in this last legislative session on education, transportation, health care and the economy,” Ritter said. “In some cases I would argue we made historic progress and we did it despite the worst economy in 75 years and despite having to cut budgets at every level of government.”

Ritter touted a bill passed this year that gives kids the opportunity to stay in high school for five years and get a high school diploma and an associates degree. The governor also highlighted a teacher identification program the state is working on.

“Every teacher in the state is going to have an identifier number,” Ritter said. “You can actually look at how kids do as they utilize that teacher going forward. We wanted to be able to use the data to ask the question ‘who works’, ‘what’s making a difference.'”

The Legislature made progress on economic development, too, the governor said.

“To make sure good jobs are available for students when they finish school we enacted another aggressive economic development package to attract new companies, help existing business and develop a 21st century workforce,” Ritter said. “It’s an entire new toolbox.”

One part of the program provides tax credits to businesses that create new jobs, he said.

And although the country and the state are in a recession, the end is in sight, Ritter said.

Colorado’s unemployment rate went down last month and is now two points behind the national average, he said.

“We know we’re in a downturn,” he said. “We hope we can come out of it and we hope we can come out of it sooner than other parts of the country.”

Representatives of 58 counties are in Vail this week for the annual Colorado Counties Inc. summer conference. The county group is a nonprofit association dedicated to assisting county commissioners and to encouraging counties to work together on common problems.

The conference includes a variety of presentations from county officials and members of the governor’s cabinet problems around the state.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.