Governor Polis greeted the Colorado General Assembly with his 6th annual State of the State address on Thursday, touching on the milestones accomplished in the past year and sharing his vision of the year ahead. Among this year’s policy priorities, Polis encouraged the legislature to pass a handful of bills with potential impacts on the Latino community.
Housing is a top priority for Latino voters statewide, and the governor laid out his plan to revisit elements of the comprehensive land use bill that was defeated last session, focusing on components that address Colorado’s lack of affordable housing. By creating more incentives for local governments to change their approach to development, Polis believes we can address the lack of affordable housing for Coloradans at all income brackets.
The governor’s vision calls for approaches from individual communities that are specific to the needs of that community when it comes to transportation and housing expansion. “Goals must consider jobs, zoning capacity, transit areas, housing density, and factors like regional equity, infrastructure capacity, and water,” he said.
Although we have yet to see them come to fruition, such policy priorities resonate with Latino voters in Colorado. Polling from our 2023 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda shows that creating affordable housing close to transportation hubs, schools and jobs is a priority for Latino voters in the central mountains and across the state, among other inclusive strategies for addressing housing affordability.
Polis placed an emphasis on expanding commuter railways, both along the Front Range and in Colorado’s northern mountains, by leveraging new federal investments in rail that could help make the buildout possible. Rural Colorado continues to struggle with transportation access, and improving options for Latinos commuting to and from resort-community jobs remains a priority for us.
“We have a vision for Front Range and mountain rail that will create access points across the state that connect people to more housing, more businesses, and more jobs, getting people to places quicker and less expensively,” Polis said. “And we’re going to get it done.”
Combating climate change through environmental policy change is another priority among Latino voters, and Gov. Polis noted that the state is on track to exceed the goal of 80% clean electricity by 2030. He also announced that his administration delivered more than 95% of the actions that were outlined in the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, and will be focusing on 40 new actions in the coming year.
The governor also spoke about a universal healthcare study with potential to make healthcare more accessible to everyone in the state, yet another top priority for Colorado’s Latino voters and something we look forward to hearing more about.
While Polis did not address the current influx of new arrivals coming to Colorado from Latin America, the state has adopted multiple policy initiatives and recently approved supplemental funding to support local governments and nonprofits tasked with supporting these newcomers to our communities. Although he wrapped up his speech with encouragement for a more inclusive Colorado, we are disappointed that Polis did not specifically address the needs of communities struggling with the influx of new arrivals as a policy priority this session.
“No matter who you love, your faith, where you came from, what you look like, regardless of your age or ability status, how long you’ve been here – whether you’ve just arrived or if you’ve been here for generations – you belong,” the governor said.
Taking those words to heart, Voces Unidas intends to hold Gov. Polis accountable to delivering on policies that support Latino families, and we look forward to working with his team and state legislators to help deliver meaningful policy changes for our communities in the coming year.