What Just Happened? 10 Opening Day Quotes & What They Mean

The 2020 legislative session kicked off this week with opening day speeches from legislative leaders and Governor Polis’ State of the State. These speeches often provide a roadmap of the session’s goals, indicating what the focus will be for lawmakers over the next five months. Below are some selected quotes from Gov. Polis, Speaker KC Becker, Senate President Leroy Garcia, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, and Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert. Also included is the Bell’s take on what these statements mean for the upcoming session.


“… when I travel around our state and listen to our constituents, it’s clear folks still feel like they’re on an economic treadmill where paychecks just don’t keep up with the cost of living.”

Governor Jared Polis

 “Coloradans need and are demanding a more affordable state and a more just economy. Too many people are not feeling the benefits of our state’s growth.”

Speaker KC Becker

Both Gov. Polis and Speaker Becker started their addresses to the General Assembly with an adage we at the Bell are very familiar with: We need an economy that works for all Coloradans. The Bell is pleased this vision is front and center and is excited to see elected leaders use this lens for all policy in 2020.

Universal Portable Benefits

“That’s why we’re taking action to help folks retire with dignity, and I’m supporting the Colorado Secure Saving Plan Board recommendations.”

Governor Jared Polis

“That is why we must continue to find new and innovative solutions for our health care needs. Because going backwards is not an option and remaining stagnant certainly is not either.”

Senate President Leroy Garcia

“If a new payroll tax is imposed under the guise of a ‘fee’ to establish a state ‘family leave’ bureaucracy, we’ll fight it.”

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville

Too many workers and Coloradans don’t have access to vital benefits like health care, retirement savings, and paid family and medical leave. These are all important to the well-being and financial security of Coloradans. These quotes show legislative leaders understand that dynamic.

The Bell is committed to making retirement security, health care, and paid family and medical leave affordable and available for all Coloradans. Keeping these benefits unattainable isn’t a fight against “bureaucracy”; it’s a fight against progress Coloradans so desperately need.

Forty-three percent of working-age Coloradans (780,000 in total) do not have access to retirement benefits through their workplace. Health insurance rates in the individual market have gone up by a staggering 80 percent between 2015 and 2019, according to the Polis administration. Only 17 percent of civilian workers across the country have access to paid leave, according to a recent study by University of Denver. Dismissive and ideological statements won’t solve the very real problems facing Coloradans.

Financial Empowerment

“It is time that we attack the root of the problem and address predatory practices that keep our people in debt, limit their power as workers, and take them from their families during times of need.”

Senate President Leroy Garcia

The Bell Policy Center has been committed to the issues outlined by Senate President Garcia. We have achieved successes in these areas, including leading a ballot initiative to cap payday loan rates at 36 percent. The next step to “address predatory practices” is to follow the example of cities across the country, including Denver, and become the first state to establish a statewide Office of Financial Empowerment. This office would expand access to safe and affordable banking and credit, as well as financial education and coaching.

Making Postsecondary Education Affordable

“For some students, some families, concurrent enrollment can cut the cost of a four-year college degree in half. While it’s not the right answer for every student, it’s perfect for some… and it already exists.”

Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert

“Together we expanded concurrent enrollment programs so that students can spend less time and money earning their degrees.”

Governor Jared Polis

There are many tried and true ways to make postsecondary education more affordable. Ensuring that Colorado has an educated workforce prepared for the future economy is paramount for a strong state economy going forward. Concurrent enrollment, when high school students enroll in postsecondary education prior to high school graduation, helps minimize equity gaps for Colorado families by reducing the financial burden and streamlining the pathway to a postsecondary credential. In a changing economy, there needs to be a multitude of educational options and opportunities to serve all Coloradans.

Taxes

“Given our state’s restrictions, we have to keep in mind that our state’s revenue is precious. …Permanent tax cuts that only further inequalities, exacerbate the achievement gap, make our higher ed institutions less competitive, and hinder our ability to meet our already dire transportation needs will not put us on the path to becoming a more prosperous and equitable state.”

Speaker KC Becker

Colorado has a regressive tax system that ensures the wealthy pay less of their share than other Coloradans. Income tax cuts would greatly benefit the wealthy — 40 percent of all tax cuts go to the top 5 percent of earners. Furthermore, the loss in revenue to the General Fund would mean cuts to services that would have to be made up through out-of-pocket costs many Coloradans are struggling to afford even now. Speaker Becker is correct that permanent tax cuts are the wrong policy choice and would lead to underfunding and pain for many families throughout the state. We know this because it has already happened: Tax cuts approved by the legislature in 1999 coupled with a recession has led to many of the funding challenges we face in 2020.

“When it comes to business, people should know that we don’t regard business as the enemy of the people. Businesses are the employers of the people. Businesses are the people. And so we don’t believe it’s the role of government to pick winners and losers, to take from one group, punish its success, and give to others.”

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville

Our current economic structure already picks winners and losers. That is the problem with having a regressive tax system in place. The wealthy have been winning and will continue to win until we fundamentally change it. This quote shows that there are entrenched interests that will fight any effort to restructure our economy to one that helps all Coloradans. Furthermore, anyone that thinks that there are Coloradans who truly believe that “business is the enemy of the people” is not serious about fixing problems real problems that plague Coloradans. Tax policy and fiscal policy represents choices that are crucial in determining equity and fairness. It’s about making a fair tax system and budget that’s equitable to serve the needs of Coloradans, especially those who are most vulnerable. This is debate will continue at the Capitol, and we expect our leaders to stand on the side of a just, fair, and equitable economy.

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