Any association between Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and a liberal tax-and-spend agenda should be falling by the wayside the longer he’s in office and advocating for a reduced tax burden on families and businesses.
Polis’s State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday included some familiar aspirational goals — better roads, education and health care — but all within a framework of formulating wise post-pandemic policies that will move the state forward without creating fiscal baggage.
He’s not the liberal idealogue he was painted to be during his decade in Congress. Wednesday speech referenced a half-dozen proposals that would put more money in people’s pockets, including eliminating the business personal property tax, reducing vehicle registration fees, stopping the taxing of senior citizens’ Social Security benefits, doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit and providing up to $600 in tax credits per child.
That comes on the heels of a voter-approved reduction in state income tax rates.
Call it the businessman’s statecraft. Polis seems to view state government through the lens of economic development: If the state can grow the economic pie and spur increases in personal wealth, social concerns become a lot easier to address.
“Let’s make good on the promise of a Colorado where people from all walks of life don’t just get by, but thrive,” he said. “It starts with investments that will create good jobs and give our economy a boost, helping us recover faster and stronger. From tax relief and loans for small businesses — to bolstering key industries like tourism and renewable energy — to investments in our main streets, the heart of our communities.”
Polis reviewed the challenges of the pandemic and relief measures the legislature passed last session. Much of the immediate agenda for this legislative session is ensuring that Coloradans don’t get left behind as the state transitions to a post-COVID recovery.
Then, the focus must shift to a better way of doing things, all the while acknowledging the changes that are already underway, like electrification of vehicles on the road. That’s going to happen regardless of legislative action, so lawmakers must “modernize and future-proof how we fund our roads,” Polis said. Such an effort will require the business
community, local governments and environmental advocates to come together around the need to reduce traffic.
Polis cited other examples of how the state must retool how it funds critical services — with the pandemic providing a natural deep breath to ponder a break from business as usual.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not just build back stronger than where we were before the pandemic, but fundamentally reimagine Colorado’s future,” Polis said. “And to make that vision a reality, Colorado needs the best ideas from both parties, so that together, we can rise to meet the challenge before us. Nothing could be more important.”
That nod to bipartisanship may be perfunctory in a State of the State address, but Polis has shown he’s not constrained by traditional party roles. Reimagining the future necessitates a belief in lawmakers who can put the good of the people of the state ahead of partisan interests.
Polis’s address wasn’t overwrought with soaring rhetoric. But let’s hope there’s some truth in his concluding turn of phrase:
“Over the last year we’ve faced a global pandemic, historic wildfires, and an unprecedented attack on our democracy. And now we have an opportunity for rebirth — for renewal — to rise from the ashes to fulfill the promise of a Colorado for All.”