Along with birds-eye-view policy direction, Gov. Jared Polis’ second State of the State address had no shortage of dad jokes and at least one Lord of the Rings quote.
In Colorado “we enjoy the climb … always reaching to achieve more. When a challenge arises, we keep moving,” he said. “Why do you think I wear my blue sneakers everywhere?”
Polis’ address focused on his well worn signature issues: providing free access to primary education, moving toward 100% renewable energy and lowering health care costs. The legislature passed a bill in 2019 for free full-day kindergarten statewide, and in his speech, Polis mentioned his budget proposal to send 6,000 more children to preschool on top of 5,100 extra spots for at-risk children funded last year.
“We should feel good about reaching this milestone,” he said. “But it has taken more than three decades to get only half the job done.” Polis said he has a goal of universal preschool access for 4 year olds by the end of his current term.
He also touted a reinsurance program passed last session to bring down healthcare costs. He said he supports more healthcare cost legislation such as prescription drug pricing transparency and a public insurance option, both policy approaches pushed nationally by Democratic presidential primary candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“We know that health care costs won’t magically go down on their own,” Polis said. “We need to keep working at it.”
Polis mentioned his support for paid leave, a hallmark issue in the Senate last session. That bill’s sponsors commissioned a study for the topic after hard lobbying against the proposed program in early versions of the bill. “We need to find a way to enact paid family and medical leave for more Coloradans.
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows for unpaid leave, but that still forces families to choose between getting a paycheck and caring for a newborn child, an aging parent, or themselves,” he said. But Polis didn’t offer specifics about how he believes a program should be structured. He simply said it shouldn’t “[strain] state resources or [force] taxpayers to bear the financial risk.”
Polis didn’t give much more detail in a post-speech news conference. When asked if his comments during his speech mean he supports a private-market system for paid leave, he reiterated his remarks about not burdening taxpayers with the cost or taking on “additional risk” with a leave system.
He also played coy about a brief upswell of climate protests in the House Gallery right before he entered the chamber for his speech, saying he didn’t hear them because they happened before he came in.
When pressed further about one protester who shouted “Ban fracking now!” as he started speaking, he acknowledged he does not support a statewide ban on the practice.
“That’s never been my position,”
Polis said. He said he supports local government control that Senate Bill 181 codified in the 2019 session.
He ended his legislative address by characterizing the importance of legacy with a quote from the wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. Every lawmaker here, myself included, is term limited.”