Interview: Polis, who paid no federal income tax for three years, says the rich are taxed the wrong way

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Warner: Governor, ProPublica this morning published an inquiry into your taxes under the title: “How these ultra-rich politicians avoided paying taxes. “And he found that in 2013, 2014 and 2015, you paid no federal income tax, and found strategies to keep your taxable income pretty low, around 8%. paid, should you pay more federal income tax?

Gov. Polis: Well, first I think it’s important to point out that there is nothing anyone said in an article other than that I paid all of my taxes required by the law. To be clear, no one is saying anything else. I also agree with the premise that the tax system favors the rich and the big business. That is why I am defending tax reforms for a better and fairer system. Including here in Colorado, where we’ve actually managed to cut income tax for every Coloradan and then pay for it by closing loopholes that benefit businesses and the wealthy. A multi-hundred million dollar package that I was proud to sign, sponsored by Rep Sirota and Rep Weissman last year. So I think there is a lot of work to be done and that we are doing better at the state level, but I hope the Democrats in Washington will use the reconciliation package as an opportunity to make our tax system fairer.

Warner: Does that mean you want federal tax law changes that will make you pay more? Is that what you are asking?

Govt. Polis: Yeah, listen, I think income isn’t the best way to tax the rich. I mean, there are people like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk who will effectively never have income to tax because they have huge earnings; rather than recognize them, they can borrow against them.

I have, probably, ruffled the feathers of the Democratic Party for a long time saying, we have to get rid of this income tax. Or at least reduce it, because frankly it is not a good way to tax the very rich. And instead, we should be looking at a number of different things: You could consider a pollution tax, a wealth tax, a value added tax. Most other countries have understood this better. And I think one of the reasons we – not the only reason, but one of the reasons you see this bigger gap in our country between the super rich and everyone else is because of our tax system. unfair.

Warner: What, in particular, should you pay more tax on? That is, if you had to change federal tax law, how would you fit into a fairer system?

Gov. Polis: Lately I’ve been focusing more on state tax law, Ryan, and we’ve made some headway, but federally, again, I would say income tax and capital gains is not a good tax to have. You can reduce them or get rid of them altogether; I agree with both. Here in Colorado we’ve cut income taxes twice – what are you replacing that income with? I am open to a wide variety of ideas, but generally they fall into three main categories. One is some sort of pollution or carbon tax, which has the added benefit of helping to save the planet – what a great idea. The second would be a sort of wealth tax, perhaps on property above a certain level or on other assets. The third would be a value-added tax, which would simply tax money at every stage of the transfer and transaction, and the rich would pay a significantly higher amount whether or not they earn income when they buy or move. things. .

It can therefore be one of these three. They’re all better than income tax, that’s for sure. If your goal is to generate more government revenue in a more efficient way that doesn’t discourage growth like capital gains and income taxes do.

Warner: According to this survey, charitable giving significantly reduces your tax burden, and that’s no surprise. But they find that part of that expense paid for direct mail that had your name on it that “felt like a campaign ad”. It was while you were on the state education council before running for Congress, did you use your charity to promote yourself?

Governor Polis: Well, that’s a very cynical point of view, Ryan. For me, my public service is a fundamental value. I never thought that would necessarily lead me to public service. I started my foundation and my work, and I have a passion to improve our schools in Colorado. I opened two public schools. Obviously, Ryan, I didn’t name these schools the Jared Polis school; They are called the New America School and the Academy of Urban Learning. Unless people dig into history, they often don’t know that I founded and served as the superintendent of the New America School. I also started Community Computer Connection, co-founder of Patriot training camp to give veterans new professional skills. I am very proud of this work, frankly. If I never became governor, if I never became a congressman, that would be an even bigger part of the legacy of what I was trying to do to make Colorado an even better place.

Warner: You filed documents to stand for re-election. Can you confirm to me that you are running and if so will you be clearing your taxes?

Govt. Polis: Well, I think I filled out the papers. I’m probably planning to do a re-election tour in January or February and visit different parts of the state and hear from people. I’ve been out before and met people. Just yesterday I was in Pueblo, and I was in Salida the week before. In terms of re-election, I think the best thing any incumbent should do is do a good job. So I strive every day to do a good job and hope it will be rewarded by the voters.

If you remember, Ryan, going back to 2018 I had an opponent who did not release his taxes. I think all candidates should be held to the same standard and I am in favor of candidates making additional declarations, whether it is their taxes – or when I was in Congress we had very long disclosures of our assets, which I also argued.

But, it is also important to keep all applicants to the same standards. What I think doesn’t work is if one candidate does and another doesn’t. And so, I’m going to watch this. I don’t want all of this to be politicized, but I am very happy to publish anything that should be published by law.

Warner: Then you will if they do, I hear you say. We only have a few minutes left, and I want to make sure we have time to talk about your proposed budget: a $ 40 billion proposal. It’s just –

Govt. Polis: I would add by the way, Ryan, they have [my taxes] – almost de facto, but shared. Because somehow ProPublica got them and they reported it. I know you haven’t seen them and they’re not there, but obviously the reporters saw them and they reported on them. So I just wanted to point it out there too.

Warner: Thanks for that. To this $ 40 billion proposal. Once again, the legislator will make the final choices, but beyond the fight against the pandemic, what is your top priority and why?

Gov. Polis: One of the things that excites me the most, as a longtime champion of public education, is that we are increasing per student funding by $ 526 per student. One of the biggest increases in history; highest per capita investment in history. This means, let’s say a class of 25 students will have an additional $ 12,000 or $ 13,000 to invest in that classroom, whether it is teacher salaries, whether it is a smaller class, or better resources.

We also know that our cities are struggling with increasing homelessness: Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs. And we want to invest in partnership with our cities to dramatically reduce homelessness, providing more opportunities for residential drug and alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, and making sure our streets are safe and that we provide the best possible care to help people. regain their dignity and move forward independently.

Warner: Last year was one of the worst on record for ozone pollution, something you and I have talked about in the past, and you’re proposing a program to help cut that $ 28 million to provide free transit on bad ozone days. What evidence do you have that free tickets on public transport will get people out of their cars?

Govt. Polis: We have evidence from other places that have implemented this. Ozone is at its highest during our summer months, linked to the heat. So let’s say June, July, August, as an example. We would have a schedule with local transit agencies – it could be your local bus agency, it could be RTD, it could be others. We will partner with them and provide some of the money for a free transit pass during this time, which will absolutely increase ridership during this time.

The real interesting question, Ryan, and what I hope will come out of it as well, is the lasting benefit beyond that. In other words, once people get into this habit and see how easy it is – for those for whom it is easy, if there is a bus line near where you commute or work. Will some of them remain riders once initiated for free during the summer? There is a net benefit just during the ozone months to get these cars off the road. This will lead to cleaner air, but we also hope it further instills this habitual use of public transit.

We want public transit to be more convenient. It is important to invest in public transit. We did this through an internal Bill 260, our transportation and infrastructure bill, which is very focused on public transit for the whole state.

Warner: Governor. I want to thank you for your time and maybe next time we can be face to face. Thanks for the remote connection.

Governor Polis: I look forward to Ryan. Take care.


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