Steamboat Institute bringing conservative thought leaders and Polis to Beaver Creek in August
13th annual 'Freedom Conference' to feature keynote speaker Mike Pompeo
After pulling off a successful event under COVID-19 restrictions last summer, the Steamboat Institute has decided to return to Gerald R. Ford Hall again this year.
The 13th “Freedom Conference” will take place in Beaver Creek Aug. 27-28 and is scheduled to feature keynote speaker Mike Pompeo, who served as Secretary of State under President Trump from 2018 to 2021.
Gov. Jared Polis will also join the conference, taking part in a panel featuring Dr. Art Laffer, a former Reagan administration official.
Jennifer Schubert-Akin, CEO and cofounder of the Steamboat Institute, said the Polis/Laffer panel is designed to address how Americans can look to the state level for productive policy solutions under an increasingly partisan federal government.
“Drawing on their experience as governor and leading economist, respectively, Gov. Polis and Dr. Laffer will address the policies states can take right now to unleash prosperity for their residents,” Schubert-Akin said.
Polis said he plans on discussing what state democrats have termed the “Colorado Comeback,” which includes stimulus packages, state investments and tax cuts.
“Obviously, I’m always happy to talk to any group that invites me, as long as it fits my schedule,” Polis said. “We’re going to be talking about the state road to prosperity and highlighting things that Colorado is doing to power our economic comeback.”
Laffer said he has been impressed with Polis’ work in Colorado as governor.
“I think he’s doing a fantastic job,” Laffer said of Polis.
The panel is an obvious one, Laffer said, as his relationship with Polis goes back three decades.
“He was an intern in my office when he was 13 or 14,” Laffer said.
The two have remained close, with Laffer serving on the boards of several of Polis’ businesses over the years, including ProFlowers, a company Polis started, which went public in 2003.
At the 2020 Freedom Conference in Beaver Creek, Laffer said he thought Polis was handling the coronavirus response well, and on Monday, Laffer told the Vail Daily he still feels that to be true.
“I think Jared handled the COVID thing very well, and especially for a Democrat,” he said.
If there would be a criticism, Laffer said, it would be that Polis “had a hard time overriding the more restrictive measures done by local entities,” he said.
Schubert-Akin said the Laffer and Polis panel will identify governing solutions that all states should consider.
“The varied responses and outcomes among states to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate once again why state policy is key to Americans’ well-being,” she said. “Americans have long understood that the best and most responsive form of government is the one closest to the people.”
Laffer said he also hopes to discuss Polis’ attempts to reform the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in Colorado. In 2019, Polis made clear that he supports the essence of TABOR, but the details could use some work, telling Colorado Public Radio he strongly supports the right of voters to be able to vote on tax increases.
“The problem you get into with TABOR,” Polis said, “is it also has very complex formulas that effectively don’t allow the state to be able to invest with receipts that it gets. So separating that from being able to vote on your taxes, which is a good thing. … What we need to be able to do is either change or roll back some of those formulas.”
Laffer said he was surprised to hear Polis’ ideas on TABOR not more widely supported by the state Legislature.
“He made the best proposal that I’ve seen in the TABOR proposal,” Laffer said. “I was quite disappointed that the Republicans did not endorse it wholeheartedly.”
Polis said elements of the Colorado Comeback legislation he plans on getting into at the Freedom Conference include “sales tax relief for restaurants, a reduction in the residential assessment rate for homeowners, and reducing paperwork for tens of thousands of small businesses who no longer have to file the business personal property tax if they have assets under $50,000.
“We’re just trying to streamline paperwork and reduce taxes where we can, and create a strong environment for growth,” he said.