DENVER — Despite criticism from from fellow Democrats about eliminating the state income tax, Governor Jared Polis on Thursday again endorsed the idea, as well as a measure to reduce the income tax rate that Colorado voters will decide on this November’s ballot.
“My opponents’ intentions are great, and I agree,” Polis said during a CBS 4 debate Oct. 13 between he and Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, who also supports an end to taxing incomes. “We should decrease and try to abolish the income tax in Colorado. At least reduce it, and it’s on the ballot this year, and I support that.”
Polis was referring to Proposition 121, which would take Colorado income taxes on both individuals and corporations from the current rate of 4.55 percent to 4.40 percent beginning with the 2022 tax filing.
“Income is a good thing, it encourages growth,” Polis said. “Have companies put their money back into growing. Let people hold onto their hard-earned money.”
The measure was put on the ballot through an effort of Independence Institute* President Jon Caldara and State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling). It’s the second time the two have paired up to reduce the state’s income tax. In 2020, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 116, which dropped the rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55.
Caldara told Complete Colorado he was thrilled to know the Governor supports the idea.
“Of course I’m thrilled, and I’m glad that all I am is Jared Polis’ foot soldier in his quest to lower our income tax rate,” Caldara said. “For a guy who keeps supporting lowering the income tax, he sure leaves the job to everybody else.”
Caldara’s quip is in line with Heidi Ganahl’s comments during the debate when she pointed out that Polis has spent his first term actually increasing the cost of living for Coloradans, as well as growing the size of government by almost 25 percent since he got into office.
“He’s added 4,000 new full time employees and 85 new taxes and fees,” Ganahl said.
“Let’s remember that the governor continues to raise taxes without a vote of the people,” Caldara continued. “So, while he continues to do that, our income tax cuts don’t even come close to what he has increased in taxation through the use of fees.”
Polis has said that under his plan, he would replace the income tax revenue with yet more taxes on other things, most prominently a carbon tax on pollution.
But when questioned by debate moderator Shaun Boyd about where the revenue will come from when he also wants to get rid of all pollution by 2040, Polis deflected and did not answer the question, instead saying Ganahl had a “math problem.”
When Boyd pressed the issue and asked again how a carbon tax would make any difference if pollution went way, Polis still did not answer, only saying pollution going away is a good thing before suggesting it wouldn’t be his problem. It will be a different administration that would have to deal with how to replace the revenue, as Polis can only serve another four years if reelected.
“Yes, when you’re talking about 10-20 years down the road, you are going to have to figure out where the revenue is going to come from,” Polis said. “As pollution decreases over the next 10-20 years, you might have to look at other ways to offset the loss of revenue.”
Ganahl said she would take the income tax to zero over eight years by steadily making Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) refund-driven rate reductions permanent, bringing new businesses and industries to the state, placing a hiring freeze on some departments within the state government, and reducing state expenses by 10 percent over her first four years.
All of these things, she said, would put more money back into the pockets of Colorado residents, which in turn would increase spending and improve the economy.
*Independence Institute is the publisher of Complete Colorado.
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