Polis seeks ‘to build on the progress’ of last session during his second state of the state address

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis gave his second state of the state address at the Capitol on Thursday, urging bipartisanship but also hoping to build on the progressive agenda he helped pass last legislative session. 

Polis’ address to the state came the day after the state legislature kicked off its 2020 session.

Last year, Democratic lawmakers passed progressive emissions goals, tighter oil and gas industry regulations, and gun control bills, among other key policy measures.

In his speech, Polis stressed accomplishments that had bipartisan support, pointing to a free full-day kindergarten plan, criminal justice reforms, lowered health care costs, and increased transportation funding. 

Polis said a new decade brings “a renewed spirit to build on the progress we have made.”

“It’s our job as public officials to build a state that allows Coloradans to reach the mountaintop, and the next mountaintop, by saving families money, by protecting our natural wonders that grace every corner of our state, by widening the pathways to prosperity,” Polis added.

Among the governor’s goals this year:

  • Provide preschool funding for 6,000 kids.
  • Address school funding issues and raise teacher pay.
  • Create a bipartisan study group on taxes.
  • Increase money for rainy day fund.
  • Garner support for proposal to offer a public healthcare option.
  • Gain support for paid family leave plan.
  • Provide funds to improve state parks.

As part of his education agenda, Polis said his budget proposal for 2020 seeks to fund preschool for 6,000 more kids, building on funding kindergarten last year, one of his key accomplishments. 

“I’m committed to achieving universal access to quality preschool for 4-year-olds by the end of my first term,” he said. 

On taxes, Polis also touted a temporary income tax reduction to 4.5 percent, while not noting that the reduction is due to taxpayer refunds required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. He pledged to create a bipartisan study group to look into “ways to broaden the base and lower the rate.”  

Polis said also wants to bolster state reserves with $118 million to help “weather the next storm whenever it comes.”

Polis said there’s more to do to make healthcare more affordable in the state, and he’ll be supporting legislation to offer a public option. 

“We estimate that the public option will save Coloradans an additional 9 to 18 percent on their individual premiums,” he said.

On paid family leave, Polis said he hopes lawmakers’ plan requiring paid time off for private-sector workers will avoid “straining state resources or forcing taxpayers to bear the financial risk.”

Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said Republicans are willing to work with the governor “especially when it comes to reducing our income tax rate and reforming our education system.”

House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced a wide-ranging education reform bill package, which they hope will have support from Democrats.

“On education, it seems that the Governor agrees with improving access for more people to achieve greater outcomes, and that will be a major focus for our caucus this year,” Holbert said in a statement to The Center Square.

Holbert also said Republicans appreciate Polis acknowledging funding the state’s $9 billion transportation infrastructure backlog, but they’re “anxious to see what the Governor has in mind regarding how to make that happen.”

Republicans diverge from Polis when it comes to a plan for public healthcare option and “picking winners and losers in our energy sector,” Holbert said.

“I expect those will be big places of contention during this session,” he added.

Polis’ speech was briefly delayed in the beginning by anti-fracking protesters who draped banners in the House Gallery. Police say 25-30 protesters were arrested, CPR News reported.

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