Gov. Jared Polis focuses on housing and tax cuts in his fifth State of the State address
Governor Jared Polis gave his fifth annual State of the State address on Tuesday, and prioritized housing costs and tax cuts, among a number of other issues including water management, renewable energy, healthcare costs, education and public safety.
Polis says the rising cost of housing is especially important to address because it is intertwined with so many other issues. He is pushing for more housing to be created as soon as possible in a way that minimizes urban sprawl.
“Let me be clear - housing policy is climate policy,” said Polis in his speech. “Housing policy is economic policy. Housing policy is transportation policy. Housing policy is water policy. Housing policy is public health and equity policy. It impacts every part of our lives, which is why it’s so critical that we get this right.”
Tax cuts were another central theme in Polis’ address. He says rising property taxes, driven by rising property values, are contributing to Colorado's housing problem. He asked lawmakers in November to deliver an additional $200 million in property tax relief to Coloradans over the next two years. He also touted income tax cuts made during his first term, but also pushed for further cuts.
“We have tools to save people money,” he said. “It’s what the voters sent us here to do.”
He went on to reiterate his goal of moving Colorado to 100% renewable energy by 2040, and said the state is on track to reach 80% renewable energy by 2030. Other priorities included water management, healthcare costs, education and public safety. Polis also called on lawmakers to strengthen Colorado’s red flag gun laws, which are technically known as extreme risk protection orders.
“This legislation has been used hundreds of times successfully, but we can do more to spread awareness and make sure it is used when the situation calls for it,” he said. “Right now, loved ones and local law enforcement have the ability to pursue an extreme risk protection order. But why not expand this to include additional petitioners, like district attorneys?”
He also held a moment of silence for the victims of November’s mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs and honored Richard Fierro, who subdued and disarmed the shooter.
Polis did not mention additional gun legislation, which is a priority for Democratic lawmakers.
“I am pleased that there is recognition that we do more,” says Democratic House Speaker Julie McCluskie in response to Polis’ address. “Particularly on the extreme risk protection order (ERPO) or red flag law. I think the opportunity to expand ERPO, allow for more petitioners, could be a very positive next step.”
Some Democrats also pushed back on Polis’ priority to cut taxes.
“States aren’t in business, we don’t have products to sell,” says Assistant Majority Leader Jennifer Bacon, who’s from Denver. “We get our money from our neighbors because we ask our neighbors to make common investments in the things that are really important to us. So whenever we hear conversation about lowering taxes, we have to ask: then, what is it we won’t do.”
Republicans like Minority Leader Mike Lynch support potential tax cuts. Lynch says letting Coloradans keep more of their earnings is a necessary step in Polis’ goal of making Colorado more affordable for everyone. And although Lynch says he respects Polis’ renewable energy goals, he’s skeptical of how he and the Democratic majority will try to get there.
“As long as we continue to be backed up by natural gas, to buy us the time we need for technology to catch up with our rambunctiousness to go renewable, I think we’ll be fine,” says Lynch. “But we don’t want to legislate ahead of technology. That’s what I’m concerned about.”
Other Republicans have bigger concerns. Senator Byron Pelton represents Eastern Plains-based Senate District 1, which includes Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld and Yuma Counties. He says agriculture should have been discussed more in Polis' speech.
“Our state is built on agriculture. Our state is built on the cattle industry,” says Pelton. “And it’s just completely ignored in the State of the State. So that’s pretty frustrating for me.”
Pelton also has concerns that fossil fuel workers will be left behind in the transition to renewable energy and says he will not work with Polis if he tries to limit gun rights. However, he is open to working with him on other public safety issues and property tax cuts.