Colorado legislators had strong reactions to Gov. Jared Polis' second State of the State address at the Capitol on Thursday.
The Democrat called on lawmakers to help residents left behind by a soaring economy. He also touched on a dozen priorities, including creating a state-run public option for health insurance, combatting climate change and establishing paid family and medical leave in the state.
Like last year, Democrats control both chambers of the legislature, boosting Polis' chances on moving much of his agenda.
Here's what some of the lawmakers had to say after the speech, which was delivered to a joint session of the General Assembly:
House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder: "I think that he obviously highlighted a lot of things that we can work on together. I appreciate his commitment to clean energy and climate as well as focusing on an economy that works for all. You're always threading a needle, but I think we'll work together to make that happen."
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, found it interesting that Polis praised “what was already given to taxpayers by preserving TABOR “despite voters turning down Proposition CC last November. 'I’m OK with him praising' TABOR," Neville said.
Neville said he thinks Polis' proposal to establish a task force to look into tax reform is doable. “Getting rid of complex tax deductions to get an overall lower rate is something Republicans can support.”
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said he appreciated Polis’ acknowledgement that teacher salaries are up to local school boards, not the state. His caucus intends to sponsor bills that will provide grants that local schools can use to provide bonuses to teachers, he noted.
Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, said he appreciated the governor’s emphasis on renewable energy and ways to address climate change. "That’s great for all Coloradans," he said.
Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, said he’s “hopeful” for the upcoming session, but added, “We have to be very careful about spending.”
Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, liked the governor's “bold commitment on continuing to tackle health care. Those are big, complicated issues, and I’m glad he’s adding his name to that fight.”
Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, noted the 2019-20 budget had a trade off between general fund reserves and transportation. Polis is touting a higher level of reserves for 2020-21, Hansen said, as well as the unemployment trust fund — both which will require more attention should the state go into recession.
Added Hansen: "In general, it was a well-rounded speech that completely covered the challenges we're facing in the state right now. I agree with his final assessment that the state is doing well. We have a very robust economy. The problem is the state government is not able to share in that prosperity, and so we have rising needs in the state budget that are more difficult to meet because of our current constitutional situation. I think it's going to require some creative approaches this year to solve those puzzles. One of the tools in our toolkit is the use of enterprise as outlined in the constitution. Senate Bill 267 gave us a clear set of tools that were implemented in that bill. I think we'll have to look to similar mechanisms as we do this year's budget."
Rep. Tony Exum Sr., D-Colorado Springs, pointed to Polis’ theme of inclusion and more opportunities for all of Colorado, whether it’s health care or education. ”We have to remember that we pass bills that impact” everyone, Exum said.
Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver, was happy to hear Polis mention that Colorado firefighters were heading to help battle the historic fires wracking Australia. "That was good! Firefighters are on their way down."
Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle: "I'm encouraged to hear him talk about a lot of the successes we had in the legislature last year. Of course, the biggest issue for my district is saving people money on healthcare. Reinsurance has been a big help to my district. I'm glad he is talking about the public options. There's been big spending by special interests, but we're trying to keep our heads down and I'm confident we'll pass a public option that works for everybody. Make sure people have access to healthcare while protecting our rural hospitals."
Colorado Politics reporters Marianne Goodland, Ernest Luning, Alayna Alvarez and Michael Karlik contributed to this report.
Editor's note: This article was updated at 4:12 p.m. Jan. 10 to note that Valdez is from Denver.