Standing before lawmakers in his State of the State address Wednesday morning, Gov. Jared Polis discussed yearlong challenges the state has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.
He also expounded on the future in Colorado, a future that could be aided by tax cuts, the expansion of broadband internet access and upgrading roads across the state, all budget priorities.
“We have once in a generation opportunity to not just build back to how things were, but to build back and stronger than we were before the pandemic,” Polis said.
Polis has alluded to his more-than-$1 billion economic stimulus plan as part of that generational opportunity, and one that could create thousands of jobs for the economy.
During his speech, Polis said he wants to get rid of special interest tax breaks and use the savings to lower taxes. He also said is focused on eliminating the business personal property tax to benefit thousands of small businesses, protecting them from “onerous tax requirements.”
In addition, he wants to provide up to $600 per child through the Colorado Child Tax Credit and stop taxing Social Security benefits for seniors.
“Many seniors live on fixed income — they’ve already borne the brunt of the health side of the pandemic — we should not tax the social security benefits that they’ve earned paying in and that they depend on,” he said.
Meeting the goals should not only help jumpstart Colorado and boost the economy to recovery from the pandemic, but improve the quality of life for Coloradans, Polis said.
“All of this, along with the voter improved reduction in the state income tax, will deliver the most substantial and comprehensive tax relief in decades for hard working Coloradans and small businesses,” he said.
The message drew applause from the crowd, including Republicans, and was one of many deliveries that brought the lawmakers in the room to their feet.
Polis is also keen on allowing businesses to thrive.
“Let them (businesses) focus on what matters — their customers, their service, their products competing in the marketplace,” he said.
The $24 million raised for the Colorado COVID Relief Fund was also highlighted, and is something that has been distributed to all 64 counties in Colorado and more than 1,000 businesses.
“And as Coloradans face tough times, we need to help folks get back on their feet, make life more affordable in our state — from job training to affordable housing, to reducing the tax burden on middle class families,” Polis said.
How some of Polis’ goals align with current developments in Montrose
Though Polis brought up a number of topics during the speech, a few in particular aligned with the potential future of Montrose. One of those has been a hot topic in recent months: affordable housing.
Montrose’s push for affordable housing dates back to at least 2016, when a household community survey, featuring input from the community, revealed multi-family housing was one of the highest priorities.
“Response to a 2016 citizen survey conducted by the city concluded that the No. 1 issue facing the community is a shortage of housing,” the City of Montrose stated last year.
Montrose’s City Council’s support for affordable housing in the community has been well documented, as the councilors have been vocal about the need during city council meetings and work sessions for several months to date.
And housing developments are potentially on the way, once and if they are approved by council. The Basecamp Subdivision, a multi-family development on a 3.6 acre parcel on the east by North Grand Avenue and west by the Uncompahgre River, could bring 96 apartment units (four per building) in Phase 1, with 276 units upon full build out. The HUB at Montrose Crossing — approved with conditions by the planning commission and set to be reviewed by city council at a future meeting — also presents another opportunity for apartment units, as currently proposed.
The wealth of new dwelling spaces could become attractive options for locals residents, and open up housing for others in the area (people in their current residence could opt to move into the new developments, opening up a space for others to apply for the vacated units).
Polis also mentioned the need to invest in rural communities, and a way to spend some of the $1 billion, Polis has floated, could be investing $70 million in an attempt to revitalize Main Streets in various communities. Though Montrose has already seen an influx of new business on Main — and it’s unknown how much of the fund would be allocated to Montrose County — additional funds may provide a significant boost to the Montrose downtown area, which has recently seen the implementation of an EV charging station (giving tourists an opportunity to visit local shops) and multiple new businesses within a few months, joining the mainstays.
If introduced, future goals have chance to benefit Montrose area
The proposal to stop taxing seniors’ Social Security benefits could help those in Montrose relying on such a plan. People aged 65-74 lead the pack among all age groups in Montrose, according to demographic data from the city, and 16% of the population is senior living alone, 71% higher than the state average.
Any sort of relief on tax burdens for middle class families may be welcomed, too, as 27% of household income in Montrose is below $25,000, also 71% higher than the average at the state level.
Some of the spending from the $1 billion could include $120 million to expand broadband access, a movement that’s already made some headway in Montrose. Earlier this month, Montrose County School District, in partnership with Elevate and Clear Networx, received a state grant to address the need for high-speed internet within the community, aiding students, educators and other staff who lack stable and reliable internet access needed for online learning.