Gov. Jared Polis enters the House of Representatives chamber to make his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Colorado Legislature on Thursday in Denver.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis delivered his first State of the State address Thursday with pomp, circumstance and a sprinkling of pop culture.
He quoted Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben (“with great power comes great responsibility”) and even gave a nod to the ubiquitous 1893 classic “Happy Birthday.” (His young daughter said she was in the “Happy Birthday Party” when asked by her brother what political party she was in, he shared. “I think there are all times we’d all rather be in the Happy Birthday Party,” he said.)
But just what did Polis’ speech say about the priorities he’ll tackle as governor?
Here are seven takeaways from the new governor’s address.
1. Offering free full-day kindergarten and expanded access to free preschool is Polis’ top education priority this legislative session. Because the state only funds half-day kindergarten, it serves as “a picture of inequality, where some students attend free full-day kindergarten, some must pay tuition, and other families get left behind because they cannot afford the cost,” Polis said. Offering a free full-day program “will save taxpayer money in the long run by increasing incomes and decreasing the achievement gap,” he added.
2. The Office of Saving People Money on Health Care — it’s a thing now. You read that right: Polis is creating the office and putting it under the charge of Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, a cancer survivor and patient advocate. “We aren’t giving this office a fancy name to make it sound important,” Polis said. “Instead, we’re giving it a simple name because it is important.” (The office will work to “reduce patient costs for hospital stays and expenses, improve price transparency, lower the price of prescription drugs, and make health insurance more affordable,” Polis elaborated.)
3. The discrepancy in health care costs between the Front Range and the Western Slope will not go ignored. ”There is no reason a family in Glenwood Springs or Gunnison should pay twice as much for health care as a family in Denver,” Polis said, adding that the Division of Insurance would be empowered to protect consumers.
4. Canadian prescription drugs — they’re coming. That is, if Polis has his way. “Canada has the same drugs from the same manufacturing plants that we have here in the United States — but often at one-half, one-third, yes, even one-quarter of the cost,” Polis said. “Together with the Legislature, I look forward to setting up a way for Colorado to safely import prescription drugs from Canada. The burden that prescription-drug costs place on families is simply too crushing for us not to act boldly.”
5. Climate change is real — “and there’ll be no pretending otherwise in this administration.” Climate change is a fact to farmers and ranchers facing historic water shortages, and for the tens of thousands of Coloradans who work in the ski industry whose jobs are threatened by decreased snowpack, Polis said. “We’re going to confront this challenge head-on — not only because we must, but because we want to take advantage of the huge opportunities associated with being a leader in the growing green-energy economy.”
6. Colorado’s tax code is in need of a face-lift. It “gives too much power to the special interests who can afford expensive lobbyists, while forcing ordinary families to pay more,” Polis said. “... These tax expenditures are on autopilot, some since the 1930s. We need a tax code that reflects today’s realities rather than yesterday’s distortions.” He later added: “We should not blindly copy President Trump’s policies into our state tax code.”
7. There may not have been many kids in the audience, but Polis had a message for them. “I’d like to deliver a message to every kid in Colorado,” Polis said in the opening lines of his address. “In our state, you can do anything you can dream. Here in Colorado, we celebrate our differences, embrace our uniqueness, and believe that what you look like and who you love matters less than what you are like and what you do for your community. Be proud of who you are, because your future is full of opportunity.”