By Jesse Sarles

DENVER (CBS4) – On Wednesday Gov. Jared Polis delivered his third annual State of the State Address to lawmakers and shared proposals for changes to the state tax code. He described them as “substantial and comprehensive tax relief” and they include helping small businesses and not taxing Social Security.

(credit: CBS)

Older adults, he said, “have already borne the brunt of the pandemic.”

READ MORE: Read Transcript Of Gov. Jared Polis State Of The State Speech 2021

His complete comments on those subjects from the middle of the speech were as follows.

“And as Coloradans face tough times, we need to help folks get back on their feet and make life more affordable in our state — from job training, to more affordable housing, to reducing the tax burden on middle-class families. From the start of my administration, we have worked together to make Colorado’s tax code more fair by getting rid of special interest tax breaks that benefit the few, and using those savings to lower taxes for the rest of us.

This year I propose we eliminate the business personal property tax for tens of thousands of small businesses, reducing paperwork and protecting them from onerous tax requirements. This will save small businesses time and money and let them focus on what matters — their customers, their services, and their products.

To help hardworking Coloradans, I propose we double the Earned Income Tax Credit, and provide up to $600 in tax credits per child for nearly 200,000 families in our state through the Colorado Child Tax Credit.

And I propose that we stop taxing seniors’ Social Security benefits. Many seniors live on fixed incomes and we should not tax the Social Security benefits they depend on.”

Polis also urged lawmakers to take quick action on a $1 billion-plus stimulus plan after a year that saw the coronavirus pandemic claim the lives of nearly 5,700 residents, three of the largest wildfires in state history and protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

He again threw his weight behind an effort to create a state-administered health insurance option. The idea is to generate more competition in a market where many rural residents have few options, even with the state health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act.

READ MORE: State Of The State: Congressmen Joe Neguse, Jason Crow Get Standing Ovation For Work On Federal COVID-19 Relief Acts

Polis insisted that lawmakers not only restore last year’s drastic cuts to public education caused by pandemic-related revenue shortfalls but ensure that children can access universal preschool and kindergarten and that higher education is affordable.

“In short, this has been one of the most challenging years of our lives as Coloradans and as Americans,” he said.

All stood, heads bowed, when Polis called for a moment of silence for those who died of COVID-19. They also gave a standing ovation to health care workers who attended. The governor insisted Colorado is close to its goal of vaccinating 70% of residents 70 and older — and maybe more — by month’s end. Seniors account for nearly 80% of virus deaths in the state, he said.

In contrast to previous gubernatorial speeches, access to Wednesday’s joint session was severely restricted because of the pandemic. State senators sat socially distanced in the gallery overlooking the House floor, where representatives sat divided by plastic glass barriers. Most House Republicans didn’t wear masks.

Polis traded elbow taps with a few lawmakers on his way to the podium before launching into a speech that insisted Colorado can emerge from the pandemic with a stronger economy, increasingly affordable health care and continued efforts to fight systemic social inequities. Democratic lawmakers are seeking to build on a comprehensive police accountability law, passed last year amid racial injustice protests, by restricting when officers can intervene in demonstrations.

Polis’ proposed stimulus spending aims to create jobs in transportation infrastructure, broadband construction and other areas. Colorado’s unemployment rate surpassed 8% in January, with thousands of jobs lost in the hospitality and service industries during the pandemic.

The governor’s agenda for the 2021 legislative session also includes continued incentives for renewable energy — a passion not readily shared by many Republicans. His administration has committed to making Colorado’s electricity grid run on renewable sources by 2040. He introduced that topic by addressing the catastrophic 2020 wildfires.

“How many homes and businesses must we lose before we resolve to meet the threat of climate change with the seriousness it demands?” Polis said.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Jesse Sarles