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Mixed feelings on Colorado's nearly $5.3 billion transportation bill

Even with bi-partisan support, the bill has some detractors
Mixed feelings on Colorado's nearly $5.3 billion transportation bill
Posted at 5:32 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 20:52:40-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — The nearly $5.3 billion transportation funding bill introduced by Governor Polis and mostly democrat state legislators does have some bipartisan support. But when it comes to how the state would collect those funds--it has some others crying foul.

“Colorado is literally now near the bottom of every list you see nationally for the state of our roads,” Mike Kopp said.

And being the president of Colorado Concern--a group representing over a hundred CEOs in Colorado-- Kopp has a vested interest in our roads.

“We’ve seen this traffic just get worse year over year over year,” Kopp said. “We all know we lose a lot of personal time, which means money.”

It’s what motivated him to get behind the nearly $5.3 billion road funding bill introduced in the Colorado Senate on Tuesday.

The bill is being touted as an alternative to Colorado's main road funding source, a 22 cents per gallon gas tax implemented back in 1991.

“As a result, both because cars are more efficient, now and just because of the power of inflation, you’re essentially collecting less and less and less each year,” Kopp said.

If passed, the bill would provide funding for many high-priority road projects for the next 11 years.

“A little over a billion and a half from that would come from the Colorado general fund, and the rest would come from a series of different user fees,” he said.

Those fees would be attached to products and services that use our roads to operate.

These are the proposed fees as the bill currently stands:

  • Starting in mid 2022, there would be a $.02 increase per gallon of gasoline. It would then increase by $.02 every year until bringing the total to an $.08 per gallon fee.
  • Starting in mid 2022, diesel gasoline would see a $.06 increase. That fee would increase by $.01 increase every two years until 2029, bringing the total to an $.08 per gallon fee.
  • Online retail orders would see a $.27 fee on delivery.
  • Ride-share services would see a $.30 per trip fee or a $.15 fee for carpools.
  • Electric vehicles would experience a registration fee increase from $50 per year to $90 per year over the next decade.
  • Hybrid vehicles would see a registration fee increase to $27 per year over the next decade.

And that’s where people like Jeff Crank have an issue.
“In Colorado, we have the taxpayers bill of rights, which is supposed to require that politicians ask us before they reach into our wallet,” Crank said.

Crank says he’s not opposed to investing in the state’s roads, but he’s not comfortable with taxpayers not having a direct say.

It’s why Crank asked local lawmakers to sign onto a pledge which argues the bill would be in violation of Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights and the recent passed Proposition 117.

“...Which said, if you want to institute new fees, those just like the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, have to be brought to the taxpayers for a vote,” Crank said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 17 elected officials from the Colorado Springs area, including Congressman Doug Lamborn and multiple Colorado Springs city council members, had signed on to Crank’s pledge.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, came out in favor of the bill, speaking alongside its sponsors on Tuesday.

“I strongly believe we can’t kick the can down the road any longer,” Suthers said. “Transportation can’t be a partisan issue. It is too important to the quality of life of our residents and the economy of our state.”

When it comes to the bill’s legality, Kopp believes it checks out.

“From a legal standpoint it is pretty well buttoned down,” Kopp said. “After that it’s a political discussion and politics can get hairy and difficult.”