Polis at Politico

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, is interviewed by Politico reporter Gavin Bade at the State Solutions Conference during the National Governor's Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.

Gov. Jared Polis talked about electric cars, Front Range rail and public option insurance in a wide-ranging chat with a Politico reporter Friday in Washington during the news organization’s 10th annual State Solutions Conference in Washington, D.C.

He boasted about Colorado  while weighing in on bringing President Trump's Space Force to Colorado, rich folks in elections (without mentioning himself), impeachment and who he's supporting for president on his party's ticket.

Gavin Bade, a Politico energy reporter, interviewed Polis at the Microsoft's Innovation & Policy Center.

He asked Polis about Colorado's aggressive plan to get to all-renewable energy sources in two decades, but pointed out that the Polis plan has no enforcement mechanisms.

Polis said he's working with utilities to reduce carbon, which companies have embraced, and that's big step forward, with more work to be done in the second half of the 20-year window. (Polis, however, will no longer be governor then, thanks to term limits.)

Polis pointed out that Aspen and Glenwood Springs have already reached 100% renewable energy.

"We look forward to telling that statewide story," he said.

Polis also touted the state's work over the past year to boost electric vehicles.

Bade noted that transportation is the highest emitter of carbon. "Coloradans like their big cars," the interviewer said. "They like all-wheel drive. They tow boats, kayaks, things like that. How can you transfer that economy away from fossil fuels?"

The governor said the state is looking at multi-modal solutions, including Front Range commuter rail. Polis, however, has not formally proposed a plan to do that, or any long-range transportation plan, since taking office a year ago. That much-anticipated roadmap is expected this spring, determining billions of dollars in spending and the short-term future of interstate traffic jams.

"We can beat it on time and price," Polis said about traditional commuting in Colorado.

Polis joined other Democratic and Republican governors during the National Governors Association’s winter meeting to talk about what's working, including groundbreaking advances in hemp cultivation and the marijuana industry, including banking and raising capital.

Bade called cannabis the state's newest agricultural product with "the growing industry in Colorado around that substance" and asked Polis what needed to be done to ensure safety.

Polis called pot "a very high-value crop, it's heavily regulated" and spoke of security along the entire process, from seed to sale.

Polis talked about Colorado's suggested improvements to new rules on hemp in the current Farm Bill, saying hundreds of farmers in the state are growing it for a range of products.

"We have a more mature industry in Colorado than any other state," he said. "We're a couple of years ahead of where other states are. We want to keep that competitive advantage, because they're going to catch up to where we are in a couple of years. We want to be ready for the next phase."

The governor said local control has been part of the Colorado pot story.

"In our state it's really up to each town whether they want to have dispensaries or not," he said, noting Colorado Springs chose to remain weed-free. "... It's up to each community to decide how many (stores) and where they might want to allow it."

Bade pointed out that Colorado is a front-runner to become a home to the U.S. Space Command the Trump administration is proposing. Left out of the interview was that Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is a key negotiator in that deal.

Polis said Colorado's existing military and contractor base made it a natural, especially in the Colorado Springs area. "We think Colorado is absolutely the best place for Space Command," he told Bade.

Bade noted that Colorado is pressing ahead with a public option insurance plan, albeit it one run by the private market with price controls.

"Many states have tried this before and have not been successful," Bade noted. "Why do you think it can work in Colorado?"

Polis said Colorado is looking at a "very practical plan" to provide competition in the insurance market to lower prices. He said it's a better model than single-payer proposals that put the government in charge of health care and force out private insurers.

"What we're essentially saying is, 'You're not cut out of this model, but there might be a little haircut you take."

The Colorado plan will include savings on drugs and "cost-controls on ... runaway hospital costs" using the state's leverage to demand better rates from the insurers and hospitals "to rein in some of this overcharging." 

Friday afternoon Polis is expected to discuss health care and the public option with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat, at the Barbara Jordan Conference Center in Washington. The event is put on by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Washington was the first state to attempt a public option, and Inslee ran briefly for president last year on a platform of corralling health care costs. He proposed a national health care plan last July, before dropping out of the presidential race a month later.

Polis, a former member of Congress, fielded a question on impeachment, and said Colorado was proud of Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora, who was one of the House Democratic impeachment managers. Now that the Senate has acquitted the president, it will be up to voters in November to render a verdict, Polis said.

He said he supported U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the race for the president, calling him a "terrific Coloradan," but he didn't offer a formal endorsement.

"We'll see where that goes and where the primary evolves in the coming weeks," Polis said.

Bade asked about billionaires in the president's race who can spend unlimited amounts to get elected, without mentioning that Polis was one of the most wealthy members of Congress who spent about $22 million of his own fortune to get elected governor in 2018.

"Money all spends the same," he said. "... What matters is whether the message is resonating with people, are these candidates, regardless of whether it's super PAC money they raised or money they earned, how is that message resonating with people."

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