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Polis calls for lower taxes, affordability in 2024 State of the State speech

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(The Center Square) – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis gave his sixth State of the State address on Thursday, highlighting housing, transit and taxes as key issues.

“We can ensure that our state remains the very best place to live, to raise a family, to launch a business – we can strengthen our dynamic economy, create jobs and make Colorado safer,” the governor said in his speech the day after the General Assembly convened. “And we all know – because the voters know and have told us – that we need to work to make Colorado more affordable.”

Polis said the cost of mortgages and rent “loom large” for Coloradans, noting more housing is needed. One way Colorado can pave the way for more affordable housing is to encourage building more accessory dwelling units, according to the governor.

“This session, I will be supportive of bills that reduce the cost of housing and encourage innovative approaches like new financing strategies, easing parking restrictions, tackling liability costs for multi-family condo construction, reducing the cost of fire insurance,” Polis said, adding he will be “very skeptical” of bills that could increase housing costs.

The governor also made the case for expanding Colorado’s transit options, chiefly with a passenger rail along the Front Range.

“We have a vision for delivering on Front Range and mountain rail that will create access points across the state that connect people to more housing, more businesses, and more jobs,” Polis said. “Getting people places quicker and less expensively.”

The existing Front Range passenger rail plan would use part of $66 billion from the Biden administration and turn existing tracks currently used for commercial rail into a daily passenger rail connecting Pueblo in the south to Fort Collins in the north.

The governor said the legislature’s work to reduce crime – including an effort to reduce auto thefts – needs to continue. According to FBI data, Colorado had the fourth-highest overall crime rate in the country in 2022, second-highest in 2021 and fifth-highest in 2020.

“Early data shows a downward trend in violent crime, which is why this year we want to continue these investments to create safer Colorado communities for everyone,” Polis said, noting a 21% reduction in stolen vehicles year-over-year.

On taxes, Colorado is projected to have up to a $1.8 billion TABOR surplus, which Polis said is a “sign of a strong economy, but also a signal that the tax rate is simply too high.”

“I know that maybe a few Democrats in the past have been skeptical of reducing our income tax rate, but cutting the income tax rate is the most effective way to further our economic growth,” he said. Polis has advocated for reducing the state’s 4.4% income tax gradually to zero.

“Of course, cutting the income tax rate isn’t a panacea, but to spur continued economic growth, it should be a part of any significant progressive reforms to TABOR refund mechanisms,” Polis added.

Lawmakers met in November to address property taxes after voters rejected Proposition HH and passed bills to cut assessment rates and double earned income tax credits, among others.

“Thanks to your efforts, we are saving Coloradans money in the short term as we work together towards a long-term replacement to the Gallagher Amendment to keep property taxes low, and I urge you to do as much as you can to reduce property taxes this session,” the governor said.

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