Colorado Gov. Jared Polis finished signing legislation from the 2019 session this week, and now he owes the General Assembly a big thank you.
The Democratic-led legislature sent dozens of bills to Polis’ desk that helped him make progress toward his campaign promises.
A new tally from The Colorado Sun’s Promise Tracker shows the governor accomplished eight promises to date and he gets partial credit for another 20 in the first six months of his term.
The combined total means Polis made significant headway on 22% of the more than 125 promises catalogued in The Sun’s tracker. (Read more on how the Promise Tracker works.)
Another 30% of his promises are currently in progress but the plurality — 46% — remain at the starting line with no major movement so far.
All his accomplishments came from legislation approved in the 2019 session, part of a shared Democratic agenda that enabled the party that now controls all of state government to make substantial shifts.
Many of his campaign promises overlapped with his legislative agenda. On Tuesday, Polis told reporters he was “very excited” about his first legislative term, adding that “we had a really historic success this session.” The vast majority of the bills that reached his desk were approved with bipartisan votes.
The final tally — 454 bills signed and five vetoes — represented improvement from earlier this year. At the 100-day mark in April, he had made good on only three promises and failed to demonstrate progress on 60% of his promises.
MORE: Jared Polis made a lot of promises in bid for governor. Here’s his progress on the 10 biggest.
Polis’ reelection campaign touting early accomplishments
The governor joked at a forum in May that The Sun has “laid out everything I’ve ever said.” But Polis and his administration also track his campaign promises, using them as guides for their initiatives.
Polis even began sending emails recently to supporters about his early accomplishments through his 2022 reelection campaign.
“We continue to engage them and inspire them and make sure they know they are part of a community that got this man elected — and are part of how he’s been able to do such big things for the state of Colorado, like universal kindergarten and putting Colorado on path to 100% renewable energy,” said Teddy Goff, a co-founder of Precision Strategies and a New York-based consultant working for Polis’ reelection campaign.
In May, starting two weeks after the legislative session ended, the reelection campaign sent three emails touting Polis’ progress to make health care more affordable, expand state-funded kindergarten and transition to 100% renewable energy.
“Now that the first legislative session of my administration has completed, I wanted to reach back out to you directly to share some of what we’ve accomplished together. I’m proud to say that, thanks to your support, we’ve had an amazing start towards making a positive difference for our state,” Polis wrote in the first email, asking supporters to share a Facebook post about a bill signing.
A deeper look at promises kept, and not
The governor’s tally of achievements doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s in The Sun’s Promise Tracker. Often it depends on the wording Polis used in the campaign, other times on the fine print in the bill.
For instance, when it comes to his full-day kindergarten promise, he gets only partial credit. He paired the pledge with universal preschool in his campaign and he didn’t make enough progress on the latter this session.
Moreover, the full-day kindergarten bill is voluntary for school districts and expected to increase enrollment to only 85% of the state’s schoolchildren from the current rate of 81%. For the 2020-21 school year, implementation is expected to reach 90%, but legislative analysts don’t expect it to get to 100%, or universal, because it is optional for parents and school districts.
In other places, Polis gets a reprieve because he’s still early in his term. For example, he promised to help pass a voter-approved ballot measure to increase money for education. But his last-minute proposal to increase tobacco taxes and impose a levy on vaping nicotine failed in the final days of the session.
Even though he lost, it’s not a broken promise in the tracker — because he has time to try again. Earlier this week, Polis said his job now after the session is to implement the new laws.
“My agenda remains the same,” he said. “And it’s really all work in progress.”