Bill Owens

Bill Owens

Infobox Governor
name=Bill Owens

office=Governor of Colorado
term_start= January 12, 1999
term_end= January 9, 2007
lieutenant= Joe Rogers, Jane E. Norton
predecessor=Roy Romer
successor= Bill Ritter
birth_date= birth date and age|1950|10|22
birth_place= Fort Worth, Texas
residence= Aurora, Colorado
alma_mater= Stephen F. Austin University, University of Texas
spouse=Frances Owens (1975-present) (filed for divorce)
profession= Consultant
religion=Roman Catholic

Bill Owens is an American politician and a member of the Republican Party. He served as the 40th Governor of Colorado from 1999 to 2007, being restricted by term limits. Owens was reelected in 2002 by the largest majority in Colorado historycite web |url=,1002,cid%253D146094,00.html
publisher=Deloitte |date=2007-02-15 |accessdate=2008-01-11 |title=Bill Owens
] , after making transportation, education, and tax cuts the focus of his governorship.cite web |url=
publisher=The Denver Post |date=2006-12-10 |accessdate=2008-01-11 |title=Owens tenure coming to an end

Early life

Bill Owens was born in Fort Worth, Texas on October 22, 1950. He attended Paschal High School in Fort Worth, and graduated with a B.S. degree from Stephen F. Austin University, where he was student body president. He earned a master's degree in public affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He was awarded a full fellowship while at the LBJ School.cite web |url=
publisher=Key Energy Services, Inc. |date=2007-01-10 |accessdate=2008-01-11 |title=KEY ENERGY ANNOUNCES THE APPOINTMENT OF BILL OWENS AS A NEW DIRECTOR
] ,

Following his graduate work, Owens was hired by Touche Ross & Co. (now Deloitte) in 1975. In 1977, Owens moved to Colorado to accept a position with the Gates Corporation as an internal consultant. In 1981, he joined the staff of the Colorado Petroleum Association, later serving as its Executive Director.

Early political career

Bill Owens served as a member of the Colorado state House of Representatives from 1982 until 1988, and as a State Senator from 1988 to 1994, representing Aurora and Arapahoe County.

While in the Legislature, Owens was active in tax reform, privatization and school choice initiatives, sponsoring the nation's third charter school law.

Owens was elected State Treasurer in 1994, where he was responsible for managing the state's $5 billion in investment funds. Owens also served during this time on the board of Colorado's $25 billion pension fund, the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).


Treasurer Owens was elected as the 40th Governor of Colorado in the 1998 governor's race, when he defeated Democratic opponent Gail Schoettler by only 8,300 votes (less than one percent of ballots cast). When he was inaugurated in January of 1999, Owens became Colorado’s first Republican governor in 24 years. His platform was three pronged: cut taxes, repair Colorado’s aging infrastructure, and continue school accountability reforms.

Tax cuts

Upon entering office, Owens worked with a legislature controlled by his own Republican party to push through the largest tax relief package in state history, amounting to $1 billion in rate cuts to the sales, personal-income, and capital-gains taxes. Owens also championed, and eventually won, the elimination of the state’s marriage penalty. By 2006, the Owens administration estimated the cuts had saved Coloradans $3.6 billion.


In November on 1999, Owens brought his transportation funding initiative to the ballot. Called TRANS, the $1.7 billion bonding initiative accelerated future federal transportation dollars on 28 projects across the state. The keystone project was the "TRansportation EXpansion" dubbed T-REX.

T-REX combined road funding from TRANS with $460 million-worth of new light rail lines to greatly expand a 19-mile stretch of Interstate 25 through the south Denver Metro Area. Through an innovative design-build concept that greatly reduced construction times, T-REX was finished in less than five years, and came in under budget.

Education reform

Bill Owens based his education reforms on expanding and empowering the already-established Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP), which had been created during the administration of Democratic predecessor Roy Romer. Owens added “accountability reports” to the tests, which provided parents with a 'school report card' to allow them to better assess the performance of Colorado's public schools.

econd term

Owens won reelection in the 2002 governor's race by defeating the Democratic candidate, Boulder businessman Rollie Heath, 64%-32%ndash the greatest majority in Colorado history. Shortly before the election, Owens was proclaimed by "National Review" as "America's Best Governor".cite web |url=
publisher=National Review |date=2002-02-02 |accessdate=2008-01-11 |title=America's Best Governor: For Republicans, a Rocky Mountain high - Bill Owens

In the summer of 2002, when the Hayman Fire and Coal Seam Fire ravaged much of Western Colorado, Owens made perhaps the first major press faux-pas of his tenure. Responding to a reporter’s question following an aerial tour of the fires (“What does it look like up there?”), Owens said “It looks as if all of Colorado is burning today”.cite web |url=
publisher=New York Times |date=2002-06-16 |accessdate=2008-01-11 |title=Fears May Be Outpacing Reality in Colorado Fires
] Many western slope residents blamed Owens for driving away tourists with the press’s truncated version of the quote (“All of Colorado is burning”).cite web |url=
publisher=Summit Daily News |date=2003-08-06 |accessdate=2008-01-11 |title=The backcountry business

In November 2002, Colorado voters soundly rejected Owens’ water storage initiative, Referendum A. The referendum failed to win a single county in the state, as opponents successfully savaged the measure as a “blank check”. Owens would later joke, “it takes a particularly adept Governor to lose a water referendum in the face of a 300-year drought.”

Leading up to the 2004 primary, Owens caused some controversy in the Republican Party by announcing support for Bob Schaffer's run to replace retiring U.s. Senator Ben Campbell, but then endorsing Pete Coors when Coors later announced his entry into the race.

In 2004, the Colorado Republican party lost its majority in the state legislature. Governor [Bill Ritter] (D) was elected to replace the term-limited Owens in November 2006.

Thus, in the past nine Colorado gubernatorial races, Republicans won only two: in 1998 and 2002 with Governor Owens.

Referendum C

In 2005, Owens faced what former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm termed “the test of his time.” Conflicting budget measures in Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR, which caps government spending) and the voter endorsed Amendment 23 (which mandates increases in education funding) combined with a nationwide recession to leave Colorado’s budget 17 percent below 2001 levels. A “glitch” – as Owens termed it – in TABOR prevented the budget from rebounding once the recession reversed.

Owens angered some conservatives by working with moderate Republican and Democratic legislators to craft and endorse what became known as Referendum C – essentially a 5-year timeout from TABOR’s spending restrictions. National conservative thinkers such as Grover Norquist and Dick Armey publicly criticized the measure and Owens’ support thereof. Referendum C passed with 52% of the vote in November 2005. While it was endorsed by every major newspaper in the state as well as the state Chamber of Commerce, it was nevertheless controversial.

After politics

Owens currently works in the private sector as a principal with land development firm JF Companies. Owens also works for the Royal Bank of Scotland as vice chairman of RBS Greenwich Capital, and is a member of the board directors of a number of public companies.

Owens joined the University of Denver's Institute for Public Policy Studies in January 2007 as a senior fellow.

In 2007, Bill Owens announced his support for and began advising Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.cite web |url=
publisher=Rocky Mountain News |date=2008-01-05 |accessdate=2008-01-11 |title=Romney's state team includes Benson, Owens


Owens and his wife Frances married in January of 1975. In January 2008, Bill and Frances announced they would divorce.cite web |url=|publisher=Denver Post |date=2008-01-16 |accessdate=2008-01-16 |title=Former Gov. Owens, wife divorcing] They have three children, Monica (born in 1983), Mark (born in 1986), and Brett (born in 1991).


External links

* [ George Will: Colorado Governor shows us how to run a state]
* [ Video and transcript of Owens discussing President Bush's policies]
* [ America's Best Governor: For Republicans, a Rocky Mountain high - Bill Owens]
* [ A liberal group lists Owens “One of America’s Worst Governors”]

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