Gov. Polis focuses on healthcare, education and economy in first state of the state address

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DENVER | Like the contrast among Colorado’s vast and unique terrains, there’s a great deal of progress to celebrate in the state — and just as many challenges to overcome, Colorado’s new governor said Thursday morning at his first state of the state address.

A new legislature filled the state House Chamber for Gov. Jared Polis’ first traditional address to the General Assembly. 

He started with a message of hope for every child in Colorado — which echoed throughout the new governor’s speech.

“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,” he said. “Be proud of who you are, because your future is full of opportunity.”

Polis is the first openly gay governor elected in the country. He celebrated his inauguration Tuesday with a Sihk prayer, Native American prayer and performance from the Denver Men’s Gay Choir. 

While Polis said he could fill an entire speech with the state’s achievements from the last few years. 

“It’s true that our economy is strong. From agriculture and outdoor recreation to aerospace, bioscience, energy, and cannabis, we’ve watched industries succeed and create jobs,” he said. “We’ve become a model for how we can put politics aside and work together.”

But people are still falling behind, he added. And so, the governor said he wants to tackle the issues that come with a raising cost of living. 

Polis called for lowering income tax rates for some families and small businesses he says have been hurt in part by President Donald Trump’s tax law last year.

He said many of the changes in Trump’s tax law benefited large corporations and the wealthy.

Colorado’s state income tax is a flat 4.63 percent rate. Polis told legisaltors his proposal asks “the largest, most influential corporations (to) pay their fair share” to permit lower rates for families and small firms.

Much like his campaign, Polis highlighted early education, lowering healthcare costs and growing the clean energy sector.

“It’s time for us to build a Colorado education system where every single child — regardless of their zip code — gets a great education that prepares them for a bright future,” he said. “And it begins with preschool and kindergarten.” 

The former Boulder congressman gave a shoutout to Oklahoma, which Polis said figured out full-day kindergarten years ago. 

“With all due respect to our wonderful neighbors in the Sooner state, if they can do it, so can we,” he said. 

Polis also took time to highlight the upcoming battle on oil and gas issues that were left unresolved during the election. 

“Just as we stand up for workers and good jobs, so, too, must we stand up for our communities — and their right to have a voice when it comes to industrial activities within their borders. It’s time for us to take meaningful action to address the conflicts between oil-and-gas drilling operations and the neighborhoods they impact.”

This is an issue increasingly popping up in Aurora. Just this week the Aurora City Council affirmed an oil and gas drilling application near a mobile home park in the northeast region of the city. 

At the meeting, which stretched late into the evening, many testified at the hearing that they live just more than a half-mile away from the approved site and worry about their family’s safety. The company has met all local and state regulations.