Governor addresses state of the state

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Governor Jared Polis

Jared Polis wonders what’s in store for Colorado as the 150th anniversary of its statehood approaches in 2026.

“Who do we want to be when we turn 150 years old?” the Colorado governor asked.

Polis said the answer will depend in part on some of the efforts he outlined in an abbreviated state of the state address he delivered in Grand Junction. That includes efforts to promote business, education and safety while also dealing with challenges related to housing and water.

Polis said he was pleased with what was accomplished during his first term, but there’s more to accomplish as his second term begins. “We know there’s a lot more work ahead.”

Polis offered what he called a “CliffsNotes version” of his annual state of the state address at an event hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce in a West Star Aviation hangar.

The address was part of a trip that also included the announcement of a $4 million grant to rehabilitate a secondary runway at the Grand Junction Regional Airport and a stop at Chatfield Elementary, a winner of the governor’s Bright Spot Award for growth in student achievement.

The $4 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics is part of $9.5 million in funding for improvement and maintenance projects at Colorado airports. Airports in Delta, Glenwood Springs and Rifle also received grants.

Polis said the Grand Junction Regional Airport plays an important role in not only promoting travel and tourism in Western Colorado, but also maintaining supply chains.

The business climate remains a priority, he said. That includes efforts to make it less costly to start and operate businesses in the state.

He cited legislation that reduced the fee for new business filings to $1 and raised the exemption on business personal property tax to $50,000.

Additional efforts will help the outdoor recreation industry, Polis said, including grants from a new Outdoor Recreation Industry Impact Fund to help employers in the sector hire and retain staff.

A number of proposed initiatives will help develop the work force by offering free training for jobs in fire fighting, health care and law enforcement.

Polis said he also supports efforts to offer dual enrollment to help high school students earn college credits.

Starting this fall, a new program will offer free preschool services to 4-year-old
children. Polis said the program will not only prepare children for subsequent education, but also enable more parents to join the work force.

Polis praised the efforts at Chatfield Elementary School in Grand Junction for improving student achievement. Chatfield and Rocky Mountain Elementary and Bookcliff Middle School were among the winners of Bright Spot Awards and received $50,000 in emergency education relief funds.

Other funding will be allocated as part of efforts to make Colorado one of the 10 safest states, Polis said. While a comprehensive approach is planned, efforts also will focus on automobile thefts.

Additional challenges persist, he said, including those related to housing and water.

The cost of housing has outpaced income, he said. That’s created problems not only individuals, but also businsses struggling to find employees.

A growing population, climate change and demands from other states threatens water shortages. Polis said he hopes to make more state funding available for water projects to leverage matching federal funds.

While it’s yet to be determined what’s in store for Colorado as the 150th anniversary of statehood approaches, Polis said he’s encouraged. “I’m very optimistic about the future.”