Gov. Jared Polis praises Republican-backed ballot question to lower Colorado income taxes |

Gov. Jared Polis praises Republican-backed ballot question to lower Colorado income taxes

Initiative 306 would reduce state tax revenues by more than $300 million in the next two fiscal years just as the state budget is crunched by the coronavirus

Brian Eason / Colorado Sun
Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters at the governor's mansion in downtown Denver on Aug. 20, 2020.
Jesse Paul / Colorado Sun

A Republican-authored measure to cut Colorado’s state income taxes amid the economic crisis may have an unlikely ally when it appears on the November ballot: Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

In a brief interview with The Colorado Sun, Polis praised the intent of Initiative 306, a ballot measure that would permanently reduce the state income tax rate to 4.55% from 4.63%. But he stopped short of an outright endorsement.

“We’ve long sought an income tax decrease,” Polis said after a recent event on reopening schools. “We obviously preferred that it was revenue neutral. But particularly in this challenging time, I think Coloradans certainly need tax relief.”

Conor Cahill, a Polis spokesman, declined to elaborate on the governor’s thinking, saying in a statement: “The governor will discuss his observations on whether the various ballot initiatives are good, neutral, or bad for Colorado after the ballot is set.” 

The Secretary of State’s Office announced Aug. 17 that supporters of the tax measure submitted enough voter signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot.

It’s not the first time Polis praised efforts to lower taxes, even as top lawmakers in his own party and allied advocacy groups look for ways to increase them to meet demands for state services. In the past, Polis has said an income tax cut should be offset within the budget by eliminating tax breaks that benefit large corporations, but his plans stalled when the pandemic hit.

The governor’s supportive remarks about this year’s ballot measure to lower taxes drew strong reactions from both sides of the aisle, and served as yet another illustration of Polis’ independent streak when it comes to tax policy in Colorado.

The proponents of Initiative 306 say Coloradans need financial relief during what could be the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Depression.

“The state should have to tighten its belt as well,” said Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Sterling Republican, who worked with the conservative Independence Institute to bring the measure to the ballot. “There’s people that have been out of work, businesses that have not been able to function during this time. They need help as well. What better way to do that than reduce their income tax, allow them to keep more of their own money.”

Opponents say it would only make things worse. The tax cut would reduce state revenue by an estimated $158 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year and $169 million the following year, at a time when the state is facing huge budget deficits. Many economists, including the chairman of the Federal Reserve, have warned that the budget woes of state and local governments across the country will deepen the economic crisis.

According to a legislative fiscal analysis, households making $50,000 a year would pay $40 less in income taxes annually if the measure passed. A household making $100,000 would pay $80 less, and someone making $200,000 would pay $200 less.

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.

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