COLORADO SPRINGS — Governor Jared Polis visited Colorado Springs Thursday afternoon to sign bills with some of our local lawmakers and to take a tour downtown with Mayor John Suthers. The walking tour began near the courthouse and ventured west a few blocks along Vermijo Avenue to the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum.
The group then donned hard hats for a stroll along the pedestrian bridge which will soon connect the museum to America the Beautiful Park.
More developments are coming to this area, meaning more people will soon be living and working here. It's part of the reason the city's streetscape improvements on Vermijo are so pedestrian-friendly.
"I think we have a bright future ahead, as long as we are able to keep up on the investments that we need to, because we don't want to be victims of our own success where were stuck in traffic for hours just getting in and out of the city," Polis said.
He was accompanied on the visit by C-DOT Director Shoshana Lew following a bill signing ceremony earlier in the day for the new transportation bill, Senate Bill 260. That ceremony took place Floyd Hill along Interstate 70 in Clear Creek County. The interstate highway narrows in that area creating a notorious bottleneck for people heading to the ski resorts. The governor said CDOT immediately began seeking bids for a widening project after he signed the bill.
Mayor Suthers explained that this legislation not only funds highway big improvements, but it also boosts the amount of money coming to cities and counties from the Highway Users Trust Fund (HUTF) which is primarily funded by gasoline taxes.
"A lot of the fees that are generated by this bill will funnel into the Highway Users Trust Fund, it goes 60 percent to the state, 40 percent to local government, 22 percent to the counties, 18 percent to the cities," Suthers explained.
He estimates it'll mean around $7 million more for the City of Colorado Springs for road funding starting in 2023. The city currently receives about $14 million from the HUTF.
The legislation generates money by charging new fees to the public on the price of gasoline, by increasing the Electric Vehicle Owners Surcharge, and by creating new fees on car rentals and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft.
The governor also points out that the legislation reduces vehicle registration fees across the state.
"Everybody's vehicle registration fees are going down 11 bucks, they're going down $5.50 the next year," he said. "It's also sustainable funding for downtown modernization, upgrades, parks, right-of-ways, and really thoughtful development."
The governor then visited the city's parole office for a bill signing ceremony. House Bill 1270 was sponsored by Representative Tony Exum and allows counties to access federal money through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to support job retention and work-based learning programs.
The governor also signed House Bill 1215 which was sponsored by Senators Dennis Hisey and Pete Lee. It creates a state grant program for business and entrepreneurship and expands the Justice Reinvestment Crime Prevention Initiative which had been set to expire this September.
Colorado voters passed Proposition 117 in November which demands new state enterprises and fees receive voter approval. The Legislative Council Staff, which reviews laws on behalf of the General Assembly, found that none of the four enterprises created by Senate Bill 260 are projected to collect $100 million during their first five fiscal years. So, the legislation is exempt from the voter approval requirement.