Governor Polis has garnered national recognition for his politically libertarian and right-leaning ideas as a Democrat, especially on the issues of limited government and tax policy. Breaking from the Democrat party line, during the 9News gubernatorial candidates debate in October 2018, he told Coloradans he wanted to eliminate special interest tax benefits and use the revenue to reduce income tax rates for everyone. The governor’s rhetoric demonstrates a belief that government should resist the urge to put its thumb on the economic scales by awarding special tax benefits to certain taxpayers; however, no study has ever evaluated whether his record reflects his rhetoric.
With this report, Independence Institute’s Fiscal Policy Center investigated Polis’s record to determine whether his policies followed through on his campaign platform. To assess the extent to which Polis accomplished this part of his agenda on tax reform—reducing special interest tax benefits—the center conducted research in three parts for this report:
1. The center identified all the bills signed by the governor during his first term that a) repealed existing tax expenditures, b) reduced existing tax expenditures, c) extended or expanded tax expenditures, and d) created new tax expenditures.
2. Using fiscal note estimates for each bill, the center compiled the ten-year revenue impacts of each tax expenditure provision within those bills.
3. The center then calculated the net changes in state revenue over ten years resulting from tax expenditure modifications in every bill to determine whether the governor effected a cumulative net increase or decrease in tax benefits for special interests.
This report accomplishes what no other report or state publication has. It parses out only those changes to law approved by Polis’s gubernatorial signature that either increased or decreased tax expenditures. It evaluates each of those changes, determining whether each constitutes a policy change in pursuit of or in opposition to the governor’s pledge to reduce special interest tax benefits. Then, using ten-year revenue impacts for each tax expenditure policy change, the report determines the cumulative net result of the governor’s policies—whether they increased or decreased special interest tax benefits on net.
Click on the PDF image of the report to read the full report and learn about its findings.