U.S. Rep. Jared Polis promised to pursue renewable energy, universal preschool and make the economy work for everyone while campaigning for governor Thursday in Durango.
Polis, a Democrat and a millionaire, represents 10 counties, including Boulder County, and he is running for governor in 2018 in a crowded field of candidates seeking to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited.
Other Democrats in the race include former state senator Mike Johnston; former state treasurer Cary Kennedy; and businessman Noel Ginsburg. Six Republicans are in the race as well.
Polis is an entrepreneur who started and sold bluemountain.com, an e-card company, and Proflowers.com. He has also started several charter schools and was a co-founder of TechStars, an accelerator for startups.
In 2000, Polis was elected to the Colorado State Board of Education. He started serving as a congressman in 2008.
Since President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, Polis said progress on renewable energy must come from the state and local level.
As governor, Polis would set a goal for Colorado to rely on 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, which could provide economic stability and growth, he said.
“It’s not mandate, it’s a goal. Obviously, it relies on future technology being developed,” he said.
He doesn’t think his goal would affect the oil and gas industry because prices are set by global demand.
While major indicators, such as unemployment, reflect a healthy economy, that’s not the experience of many Coloradans across the state, especially because housing prices have risen dramatically, he said.
He would like to encourage more companies to be employee-owned or to offer stock options to their employees so they can share in the value that they create.
A state center for employee ownership could do a lot of technical accounting and legal work for companies and help encourage this model, he said.
Research proves the value of early childhood education, and one of the biggest holes in education in the state is universal preschool and full-day kindergarten, he said.
Some existing revenue streams could help pay for this expansion to the educational system, but it’s also possible a statewide vote may be needed to raise taxes.
In terms of deviating from the current Democratic leadership, Polis would like state lawmakers to ask voters to fund transportation infrastructure, including roads and light rail, instead of relying on toll roads and financing that should be a last resort.
“We have been kind of on a holding pattern on when we are going to go sell voters on the infrastructure needs of the state,” he said.
He would like to build a coalition, including the business community and residents of the Western Slope, to support a tax increase for infrastructure.