Democrat Jared Polis took office in January as the state’s 43rd governor with an ambitious agenda and plenty of campaign promises to keep.
To track his administration, The Colorado Sun is launching an accountability project: The Polis Promise Tracker. It takes inspiration from great efforts from PolitiFact and will feature updates as the governor makes progress (or not) at the state Capitol.
We launched the tracker the day after the election with 10 promises from the 2018 campaign and will continue to update it update. If you have a promise we missed, email us at email@example.com.
TABLE OF CONTENTS: Free kindergarten | Better teacher pay | Universal health care | Health & drug costs | Gym costs insurance | 100% renewable energy | Eliminate $1.6 billion in tax breaks | Curb use of private prisons | Fund Colorado Water Plan | Expand rural broadband
The Promise: Free, universal pre-K and full-day kindergarten
The Quote: “As Governor, I will bring together a winning coalition to establish universal full-day kindergarten and preschool in every community across our state within two years.”
The Context: Today, Colorado provides only enough funding for half-day kindergarten. It also relies on state and federal dollars to send at-risk kids to preschool, but it has funding for only a limited number of slots. Today, just 23 percent of Colorado 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded pre-school, and only 8 percent of 3-year-olds, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Date Made: June 11, 2017
Source: Education Policy, Polis for Colorado
The Promise: Better teacher pay and smaller class sizes.
The Quote: “As governor, I’ll take bold action: free preschool and kindergarten, better teacher pay, smaller class sizes.” … “I will build a winning coalition to go to the ballot box and pass an initiative to better fund our schools and early education opportunities.”
The Context: Colorado teacher pay ranks 31st in the country by one measure and as low as 44th if you adjust for the state’s cost of living. Meanwhile, the average Colorado public school has 17.6 students per teacher, according to the Colorado Department of Education. That, too, is worse than the national average of around 16.1 students per teacher, according to the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics. During the primary Polis explicitly promised to ask voters to boost funding for schools to help pay for his ideas. But his campaign has walked that back somewhat since then, saying he would only do so “to fill gaps if necessary.”
Date Made: Spring 2018
The Promise: Universal, single-payer health care
The Quote: “If I’m elected governor of Colorado, I will work with other western states to tackle our shared health challenges. Together, we can pioneer a groundbreaking multi-state consortium to offer a universal, single-payer option out west.”
The Context: When politicians talk about single-payer health care, what they typically mean is a program similar to Medicare, the health program for the elderly, which is paid for by the federal government using tax dollars. But you have to be 65 or older to qualify. Polis has promised to give everyone the option of joining a Medicare-like plan that would be administered and funded in a partnership with other Western states.
Date Made: Feb. 25
Source: Editorial, The Aspen Times
The Promise: Improve transparency of hospital and drug costs
The Quote: “We will work with the Colorado legislature to improve transparency and understanding of the actual underlying costs of care by requiring hospitals to disclose certain financial information in a manner that is meaningful to both consumers and relevant state agencies in saving Coloradans money. … We must improve transparency by requiring pharmaceutical companies and other providers to publicly disclose pricing, and the expenses that factor into it, to ensure competition can reduce costs for consumers.”
The Context: Critics have long blamed the opaque nature of hospital bills and prescription drug costs as a key driver of the astronomical expense of health care in America. How is competition supposed to drive down prices if no one knows there are lower cost alternatives? But efforts to boost transparency have been defeated each of the past two legislative sessions amid stiff opposition from hospital and pharmaceutical lobbyists.
Date Made: Sept. 17
Source: A 100-Day Roadmap, Polis For Colorado
The Promise: Expand insurance coverage of gym memberships
The Quote: “You can count on me to always be bold in identifying and pursuing creative, attainable innovations in our health care system: (Bullet point) Expand coverage for gym and health-club memberships in insurance plans.”
The Context: Many major insurance providers provide discounts or complete reimbursements for gym memberships. This one may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it goes to illustrate just how many promises Polis has made on the campaign trail.
Date Made: March 2018
Source: Health Care Policy, Polis For Colorado
The Promise: 100 percent renewable energy by 2040
The Quote: “The power for your home will be 100 percent renewable by 2040.”
The Context: As of 2016, the last year data was available, Colorado utilities generated just over 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources — predominantly wind power — so the state has a long way to go. But the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, already has plans to get to 55 percent by 2026. Polis plans to spur the state further in that direction by establishing special districts that would finance smaller scale renewable projects in rural areas, and by incentivizing solar panel installations in homes.
Date Made: June 11, 2017
The Promise: Eliminate $1.6 billion in tax breaks
The Quote: “We’ve looked at going after special interest tax giveaways — about $1.6 billion a year — reining them in, and using the proceeds to reduce people’s income tax by 3 to 5 percent.”
The Context: The Department of Revenue estimated in 2015 that Colorado gave out more than $4.3 billion in tax breaks on things like fuel and alcohol, sales and income taxes and tax deductions claimed by corporations. Lawmakers have long sought to reduce the amount the state spends on tax breaks, but haven’t made much progress. It’s not clear which ones Polis plans to eliminate to reach his target.
Date Made: Oct. 17
Source: Gubernatorial Debate, 9News
The Promise: Ending Colorado’s use of private prisons.
The Quote: “I will end our investment in private prisons and reinvest those dollars into rehabilitation, diversion, alternative and restorative justice programs.”
The Context: Today, Colorado has three privately run prisons that house around 19 percent of the state’s inmates. Lawmakers for years have sought to phase out the use of private prisons. The problem: The state doesn’t have enough beds to eliminate them, and at $62 per day per inmate, they’re significantly cheaper than public prisons, which run anywhere from $76 to $124 a day. Further complicating matters, lawmakers have been trying to cut public spending on Corrections, making the state’s reliance on private prisons that much harder to quit.
Date Made: Unknown
Source: Criminal and Social Justice, Polis for Colorado
The Promise: Fully fund the Colorado Water Plan
The Quote: “It’s so important that we make implementing and fully funding and improving Colorado’s water plan a priority in the years ahead. … I’m confident that working together we can achieve (that goal).”
The Context: It would take anywhere from $20 to $40 billion to fully fund the Colorado Water Fund Plan by 2050. That represents a minimum of $625 million a year, and today the state spends about $10 million annually on water plan-related grants. Polis hasn’t explained exactly how he would pay for it. His campaign website offers a vague promise to “upgrade our water funding, financing, and investment mechanisms to take advantage of new revenue streams and partnerships to fully fund the water plan.”
Date Made: Aug. 22
Source: Remarks, Colorado Water Congress
The Promise: Expand rural broadband faster
The Quote: “We will speed that investment (in rural broadband) by changing the law to move resources faster. We’ll give rural towns and citizens the freedom to plan for and invest in broadband by removing the antiquated requirement to conduct costly and time-intensive elections to do so.”
The Context: Extending broadband to rural areas has been a top priority of lawmakers and Gov. John Hickenlooper for years, and significant progress has been made. In 2015, just 59 percent of households had access to high-speed internet; now 81 percent do. Polis wants to accelerate that expansion by rewriting the regulations of the Broadband Development Fund, which he says are preventing grants from being issued to worthy projects. He also wants to stop requiring local governments to seek voter approval in order to fund broadband infrastructure. Both would require legislative approval.
Date Made: Nov. 7, 2017
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