DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis focused his State of the State address Thursday on health care, education and the affordability of living in Colorado as his priorities for the final year of his term.
Polis’ address at the state Capitol before the General Assembly was the fourth of his administration, after a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple mass shootings, and which ended with the devastating Marshall Fire in Boulder County.
Polis and legislative leadership recently outlined priorities for 2022 that include lowering health-care costs, investing in early childhood education, reducing crime, making bipartisan transportation investments and fighting climate change.
The legislative session got underway Wednesday. Democrats currently control both the Senate and the House.
“No matter how tough this year has been, I know for a fact that Coloradans are fundamentally good, we care for one another, and we are tougher than anything thrown our way,” the governor said.
>Watch the full address below:
Taxes and fees
Polis focused on financial relief for Coloradans amid inflation, supply-chain disruptions, higher housing costs and unemployment.
He talked about previously funding a state child tax credit, cutting property taxes and passing a tax reform package for businesses.
His proposals included further reducing fees like premiums on unemployment insurance and the Paid Family and Medical Leave, making it free to start a business, and preventing increases in drivers’ license and vehicle registration fees.
“If it isn’t clear, saving Coloradans money and keeping our state affordable is my top priority during this legislative session,” Polis said.
“We know this pandemic has been hard on workers across all industries, but perhaps none more than doctors, nurses and health-care professionals,” he said.
Polis said he plans to propose a three-year plan to invest in health care and stabilize the workforce for that industry.
Polis proposed waiving licensing fees for nurses and metal-health care workers, as well as for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He spoke of the need to support children, teens and adults with mental-health care.
He proposed partnering with local governments and school districts to address behavioral health needs, integrating physical and mental health services and bolstering the behavioral health workforce.
The governor said after passing free full-day kindergarten, he wants to extend that to younger children, as well, with free, universal preschool by 2023.
He said he has a plan to increase per-pupil funding in K-12 education, supporting small class sizes and increasing pay for teachers. He also proposed for higher education the expansion of financial aid and investments to keep costs and tuition from rising.
“I want to thank every educator and school staff member who has done their part and then some to help keep Colorado schools open [during the pandemic]”, he said. “There is nothing more important to the future of our state than educating Colorado children.”
The governor also spoke about:
- Public safety: The governor said he was putting forward a plan to support and fund local law enforcement and investing in community-based organizations to help prevent violent crime. He said he plans to work with the legislature on strengthening penalties on the sale of fentanyl.
- Homelessness: He pushed for “bolder solutions” to reduce homelessness, including affordable housing, substance abuse treatment, residential programs and support services.
- Climate: He said he’s committed to cutting emissions and improving air-quality monitoring and enforcement, and securing Colorado’s water supply by protecting water rights.
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