U.S. Rep. Jared Polis says he would lower cost of care for mountain communties as governor
Congressman Jared Polis joined a crowded field in the governor’s race last week, offering up a vision for Colorado that the Boulder Democrat says transcends partisan acrimony and would bring the disruptive approach to governing that he honed in his years as an internet startup founder.
The fifth-term U.S. Representative, whose district includes Summit County, has built his platform on three primary goals: getting Colorado to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2040; delivering free, universal preschool or kindergarten for children across the state; and encouraging businesses to offer stock options to employees.
In an interview with the Summit Daily, Polis said those concrete ideas are what separate him from the pack, which already includes his House colleague, Ed Perlmutter, as well as three other Democrats and four Republicans.
“No one was talking about the big ideas that will take our state into the future until I entered the race,” he said.
In addition to those ideas, Polis will also be bringing a hefty war chest to the race, having amassed over the years a sizeable personal fortune that ranks him among the wealthiest members of Congress.
His net worth has recently been estimated at $90 million, and it all started with his first of several tech companies, American Information Systems, which he started while still in college.
“I founded several businesses, created hundreds of jobs, and that’s a skillset voters like to see in a governor,” he said.
In all of those companies, he said, employees were offered stock options, which allowed them share in the value that was created when they were sold or went public.
Polis said he would use his position as governor to encourage more companies to do the same and remove barriers that prevent them from doing so.
“We need an economy that doesn’t just work for investors and executives but also works for employees and workers,” he said. “There is great value that’s being created across our state and across our country, but the issue is, not everyone is benefiting from that.”
Polis largely eschews partisanship when pitching his ideas, which he says can incorporate ideas from both sides of the ideological divide. That strategy reflects the high-wire act that Colorado politics can be, where a fairly even split of Democrats and Republicans can necessitate governing toward the center.
“I don’t really see the fundamental divide in our country and our state as left or right or liberal or conservative, I see it as future versus past,” he said. “And I think there’s a very powerful majority in our state to be built around future-oriented policies.”
As an example, he cites deeply red states like Oklahoma that already have access to universal preschool.
“This isn’t a red versus blue issue,” he said. “This is a simple issue of why in the world in our prosperous state of Colorado can’t we offer preschool and kindergarten to families regardless of where they live?”
His ambitious goal to get Colorado to 100 percent renewables by 2040 does begin to tread into more partisan territory, although Polis says that the rising fortunes of wind and solar combined with malaise in the coal industry mean it makes simple economic sense.
“It’s really about when we get there and what the plan is at the state level to get us there sooner rather than later,” he said.
For the next year-and-a-half, Polis will be juggling his campaign with continued duties in the House, where he said he intends to hold the line against Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
As far as how he might tackle limited access to care and high costs, particularly in rural counties like Summit, Polis said that would largely depend on the future of the ACA — and what might take its place.
One thing he would do as governor, however, is modify the way health insurance plans are organized geographically in Colorado, which he says has contributed to Summit County residents paying as much as 40 to 50 percent more than they would on the Front Range:
“Having represented our mountain communities and seen the effects of high cost of health care, that will be a priority for me: to make sure that we have a health care pricing model that works across our entire state, not just in the Denver metro area, not just in the Eastern Plains, but also in our mountain communities.”
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