Four months ago, when Governor Jared Polis signed a package of bills to ease tax breaks for wealthy people and corporations, and shift savings to low- and middle-income people and small businesses, he lamented fiscal policy in the state, as if the country, rewards moneyed interests at the expense of the rest.
Democrats said at the time, “Often, it’s the big guys who have the lobbyists and get the special-interest break, and as a result, everyone pays more in taxes.”
But Polis, whose net worth is pegged in the millions, benefited from the very imbalance described that day, according to a new report from ProPublica, which details how ultrarich political figures like Polis were able to avoid paying taxes in some Huh. cases, or pay lower rates in others.
If you paid any federal income tax in 2013, 2014, or 2015, you paid more than the police could, as the outlet reported. It said that over the past decade, the governor’s overall tax rate was less than half of what was paid by an employee making $45,000 in 2018.
The ProPublica report, published Thursday morning, showed that the gap is in line with a system that has helped many other ultrarich people, including politicians and corporate executives, avoid overpaying their net worth in taxes.
This is due to the legal framework that allows wealthy people to classify their wealth outside of income tax. The Denver Post reported three years ago that Polis had no federal income tax for five years in the early 2000s, even when he was already millions in his 20s.
As of 2017, the police were worth more than $300 million, according to a report from the nonprofit OpenSecrets. This made the former US representative from Boulder one of the top five richest members of Congress. He did not release a recent tax return during his 2018 run for governor because, he said, he would not do so unless then-rival Walker Stapleton also refused. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio on Thursday, Polis did not commit to releasing his return during his 2022 re-election bid, but suggested he would do so if his as-yet-undecided opponent does.
The police’s office defended ProPublica and again in a written statement to The Denver Post on Thursday.
“Governor Polis has paid all the taxes she is required by law and no one has suggested otherwise and she fully agrees that the tax system favors the rich,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Koser said. “That’s why he has long supported tax reforms to create a better, fairer system, especially for middle-class workers and families.”
Koser also noted a package of tax-related bills Polis signed this summer to close “unfair loopholes and tax liabilities, to increase support for working families and small businesses for the wealthy and well-connected.” Has happened.”
But fellow Colorado Democratic officials who have worked against – and, in some cases, Polis – on fiscal policy, said reports on taxes paid by Polis and other wealthy politicians highlight fundamental economic inequality in this country.
Responding to officials and advocates
State Rep. David Ortiz, a Democrat from Littleton, said people like Polis should not be “punished for success.”
Ortiz said, however, “I can’t think of anything more un-American, non-patriotic than maintaining a system where the people who benefit the most, who are the wealthiest, get their due.” don’t pay the share.”
Representative Emily Sirota, a Democrat from Denver who was a major sponsor on several bills, Polis said at the June signing event, said in a text message, “The wealthiest individuals and corporations should pay their fair share, and what we What we know for sure is that under our current tax system, they often don’t. Middle- and low-income people struggling to recover from the pandemic are more effective than those who thrive pay the tax rate.”
Sirota said he expects Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy, which it is considering as a way to help pay for a $1.75 trillion household spending package for President Joe Biden’s agenda. Polis told Colorado Public Radio that he supports taxing the wealthy to push this package forward.
Sen. Chris Hansen of Denver, Sirota’s co-lead on tax reform bills, said ProPublica’s report “wasn’t too surprising” because “we have a tax system in this country that’s highly beneficial to the super rich and isn’t working properly.” Family.” But he said it highlights the need to continue reforming the system in future legislative sessions.
For Scott Wasserman, executive director of the Progressive Bell Policy Center, ProPublica’s findings reflect his group’s experience “that it has been so difficult to get this governor to, one, accept how unfair our tax code is, and, two, To think about the really unique barriers to taxing money in Colorado.”
“I don’t have a problem with money, but we work with wealthy individuals who use their wealth and privilege to advocate for a fair tax code,” Wasserman said. “And I guess my surprise has always been, why is he unwilling to accept how this issue plays out for him personally and what is his obligation to all those people who get punched at such a high tax rate? Not killing?”
Often on the other side of the tax debate with the Bell Policy Center is the conservative group Colorado Rising State Action, which advocates for lower taxes like the failed measure on this week’s ballot to cut property taxes. Executive Director Michael Fields said it is clear why the governor has not issued his tax return in the past.
“Wealthy people should not get benefits, be it individuals or businesses… I think there should be a fair system where small businesses are given the same importance as large businesses, and individually, individuals and families have It’s the same system that rich people do,” Fields said.
In an emailed statement, Colorado GOP President Christy Burton Brown called the details in ProPublica’s story “shameful” and also criticized Democrats in the state for “fighting(ing) every day to raise taxes on Coloradans” — something The police have advocated only in narrow cases, such as nicotine, marijuana and pollution taxation.
The GOP frontrunner to oppose Polis in the 2022 election, University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahal, herself a millionaire, commented on the ProPublica report through a spokesperson: “If this is true, Jared Polis has nothing to do. There is a lot for him. There has been a lack of transparency and honesty in his administration. This appears to be another example of that.”
Asked if she would forgo her taxes if she was nominated for governor, Ganahal said, “I’m not opposed to releasing my taxes if Jared Polis releases his taxes.”
Several others, including leaders of all four Statehouse caucuses, either declined to comment or could not be reached Thursday.
Polis has founded or co-founded about 20 companies, starting with an early Internet systems provider, American Information Systems, which he co-founded with two of his friends at Princeton University. The company sold in 1998 for $23 million.
The following year he led the sale of his family’s e-card business, Blue Mountain Arts, for $780 million. It was one of the biggest cash-outs of the dot-com era; Just two years after the sale of Police, Blue Mountain sold again for $35 million.
In 2000, Polis began working on a new company, a floral arrangement delivery service later renamed ProFlowers. The company sold in 2006 for $477 million.
Not all of the money from those and other ventures went directly to him, but as ProPublica reports, as of 2010, Polis was worth an estimated $143 million.
The governor has often used his money to advance his political career by pouring record amounts into his own campaigns. He has also used his money to benefit other Democrats, and was a member of the “Gang of Four” – along with Pat Stryker, Tim Gill and Rutt Bridges – who worked in the mid-2000s to support and support liberal causes. Spent big to help Democrats get the benefits. The trifecta at the state capitol.
Polis spent an unheard of $1.2 million of his own money at the age of 25 to be narrowly elected to the state board of education. For every vote he won in that race, he spent $1.56 for a penny per vote for his opponent.
Polis broke state records when he spent more than $23 million on his own gubernatorial election. The campaign was almost entirely self-funded, as that year they limited campaign donations from individuals to $100. Democratic insiders say he is willing to spend extravagantly for re-election in 2022.
The ProPublica report reveals other ways that Polis has used their money to promote their own brands. The report states that the Jared Polis Foundation spent more than $2 million between 2001 and 2008 on mailers with his name and image. These mailers, closer to campaign mailers, were filed as charitable expenses, ProPublica reported.
His Fiscal Policy as Governor
As governor, Polis has consistently taken a conservative stance on fiscal policy. In this area, he was turned away from legislative Democrats on the day he took office, as he pushed for Colorado’s flat income tax cuts. State research has shown that the flat rate makes the poor pay higher taxes as a percentage of their total income.
Statehouse Democrats were not interested in lowering the income tax rate, and Polis’ insistence on the policy stalled negotiations on a 2020 bill meant to eliminate some tax breaks for the wealthy. Democrats eventually turned that bill back dramatically to please the governor. Polis got its way a few months later when voters cut the state income tax rate, which Polis never formally endorsed but has been openly celebrated since the 2020 election.
Recently, the police advocated abolishing the state income tax. Appearing at a conservative convention in Beaver Creek in August with his friend Art Laffer, economist and former adviser to President Ronald Reagan, Polis said, state income tax “should be zero.”
“We can find another way to generate revenue that doesn’t discourage productivity and growth and you absolutely can, and we should,” he said.
But Polis does not have the power to do so on its own, and leaders of the Democrat-led legislature told The Denver Post that they would never support such a plan. Most of Polis’ fellow Democrats in the Capitol would actually like to see a reverse policy in which the wealthy pay higher state income taxes. Several progressive groups issued a ballot measure last year to raise taxes on incomes above $250,000 and lower taxes on incomes below that mark.
At the time the Post asked Polis to comment on the motion – which never made the ballot – and the governor declined.
In this week’s election, Polis backed a property tax cut, which was widely opposed by Democrats and even some legislative Republicans. The measure failed miserably, as did a tax on marijuana products to pay for educational programming, which Polis also supported.