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Colorado Governor Jared Polis (R) has never been an Orthodox liberal, but he strayed even further from his party’s dogma in an address at a Conservative conference on Friday.

Speaking at the Freedom Conference at the conservative Steamboat Institute in Denver, Polis embraced the complete elimination of state income tax. When Moderator Hadley Heath Manning asked the Governor what the income tax rate should be, Polis was applauded with his response: “It should be zero.

“We can find another way to generate income that does not discourage productivity and growth,” he continued.

At another point in the conference, which also included renowned supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, Polis explained his approach to taxation. He has made it clear that he would like any tax changes to be revenue neutral and consider replacing income tax revenue with taxes on other things, such as pollution.

“Effectively, when you tax something, you penalize it,” Polis said in his remarks, first reported by The Denver Post on Monday. “There are things you really want to penalize in society. Pollution could be one of them. I would say smoking could be one of them.

“If we can get away from taxing income, which you don’t want to be discouraged because we want everyone to earn income, we want businesses to generate income, that’s a good thing,” he said. he continued. “YesYou will have a more growth friendly tax structure that will put in place the right incentives to help grow when you want to grow and penalize things that are negative externalities.

Polis, who previously served in the United States House, also voiced his opposition to a state referendum that created a paid family leave program last year. He supports the program but believes that “there were better models” of funding than the 0.9% payroll tax adopted by the state.

In addition, he said he would have preferred the federal government to give Colorado other types of help to overcome the economic downturn linked to COVID-19 instead of increasing weekly benefit checks for people receiving benefits. unemployment insurance.

We can find another way to generate income that does not discourage productivity and growth.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D)

Polis, a multimillion-dollar internet entrepreneur, was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus during his decade in the House, but he was never a mainstream progressive in economic policy. A promoter of business-friendly international trade deals, he was the only Democrat to join the House Freedom Caucus, a hub for libertarian-minded Republicans such as the representative of the time. Justin Amash.

In 2018, Polis, the country’s first openly gay governor, triumphed over his more liberal rivals in Colorado’s Democratic primaries.

Early in his tenure, Polis made it clear that he would at least like to reduce the state’s flat tax rate. In 2020, he welcomed a GOP-backed referendum, which ultimately succeeded in reducing the income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%.

But Polis’ participation in Friday’s Conservative conference alongside Laffer, who joined him remotely, and Manning, director of policy at the Conservative Independent Women’s Forum, was nonetheless remarkable – and that’s not to mention his statement from current affairs policy.

Laffer, a staunch anti-tax activist and trickle-down economy architect whose flagship idea is rejected even by some conservative economists, praised Polis – or “Jared,” as he referred to the governor.

“You did an exceptionally good job,” Laffer told him.

Laffer is co-author of an annual dashboard of governors’ commitments to “economic freedom” for the American Legislative Exchange Council, supported by business. Polis, he noted, is the only Democrat to place in the top 10 on the most recent scorecard.

But if Polis succeeded in abolishing the state income tax, thus becoming the first governor outside of Alaska to remove an already existing income tax, Laffer promised he would give Polis the top spot. of its classification.

In reality, the repeal of Colorado’s income tax is a failure for Polis. Leaders in the Democratic-controlled state legislature have already rejected Polis’ calls to reduce state income tax, let alone abolish it.

What makes Polis’ statements so remarkable is the revelation that he seems to share many of the core assumptions of free market conservatives – precisely at a time when Democrats in Congress are reinforcing their break with trickle-down theory.

For example, President Joe Biden offered to pay off the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package with the cancellation of many former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the rich.

What Polis is proposing is “180 degrees at odds with what Biden is pushing,” Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, told HuffPost.

Scott Lincicome, Senior Research Fellow in Economic Studies at the Cato Libertarian Institute, praises Polis for saying “interesting things”.

But liberal economists such as Baker dispute the idea that taxes, especially those intended for high incomes, interfere with economic growth. On the one hand, to the extent that people dislike higher taxes, they may choose to respond by working harder to generate the same take-home pay rather than working less, as conservative economists warn.

And according to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, average annual growth was higher in the 1960s and 1970s than from 1980 to 2016, when income taxes were significantly lower than in previous decades.

Additionally, while Colorado’s income tax is fixed instead of progressive, income tax is typically the means of requiring the wealthy to bear a proportionately larger share of the costs of the service. public.

Flat-rate consumption taxes, even if they target harmful habits like smoking, hit the poorest residents harder, who spend more of their income than the rich.

“For people who have to spend almost all of their income, [consumption taxes] equates to an income tax, Baker said.

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