Gov. Jared Polis Underlines Rural Priorities For Colorado

West Nile Paonia Marston
Stina Sieg/CPR News
Much of Delta County, including in and around Paonia, is irrigated farmland, which can be ripe for mosquito breeding if not carefully drained. More than a third of the county has no mosquito control because voters haven’t approved it.

Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday that he intended to help Coloradans thrive “no matter where they live.”

In an overarching blueprint released the next day, his administration named top rural concerns, including high health costs, the transition away from coal, poor broadband connectivity and a need to diversify local economies.

Polis highlighted things the state has already done, such as a recent law that exempts fertilizer from state taxes and the planned new state park at Fishers Peak.

He also named bigger goals, such as growing the state’s organic agricultural market, building out broadband and expanding outdoor access. And the document outlined how the Democratic governor's statewide priorities, such as full-day kindergarten and a "state public option" for health coverage, would benefit rural areas.

The announcement didn’t include any major new funding or programs. His office described it as an opening salvo of a multi-year effort.

In response to a question at the Friday news conference, Polis noted that the state’s various rural areas face different economic paths.

“There are communities that are growing and thriving. There are communities that have declining populations,” he said. “It’s not always the same solution for both.”

For areas losing population, he said the answer could lie in “location independent employment,” such as call centers or telecommuting opportunities, for people who want to escape high-priced cities.