Colorado’s 100 legislators know how Fix Colorado Roads feels about House Bill 1242, the proposal to pump hundreds of millions of dollars a year into transportation by raising the state sales tax. The feeling is not excited, even a little disappointed.
Fix Colorado Roads is the statewide coalition of local chambers, elected officials and civic organizations that’s been pushing the longest and hardest for the state to get moving on its over-crowded, dilapidated highways. When this group extends a hand, legislators understand its political reach.
The bill is set to get its first hearing before the House Transportation and Energy Committee next week.
Tuesday each lawmaker got a letter from a not-yet-satisfied coalition.
“HB 1242 did not emanate from Fix Colorado Roads and has not yet earned our endorsement,” reads the letter obtained by Colorado Politics.
The letter signed by Fix Colorado Roads representative Sandra Hagen Solin continues, “Upon our initial review of HB 17-1242, we have a number of concerns. To secure legislative approval with strong bi-partisan support on a measure that can pass with voters, we believe the measure requires additional work. As now written, HB 17-1242 does not hit the sweet spot.”
The unsweetened bill lawmakers are considering would raise the state’s 2.9 percent sales tax by 0.62 percent. To do that, voters would have to approve it in November.
Fix Colorado Roads is concerned a proposal that relies too heavily on a tax hike won’t pass, and leave state roads no better off in November than they are now. History has shown statewide Colorado voters are tax-averse.
House Republicans are pushing for all or at least most of the transportation money to come from the existing state budget.
The tax hike would raise $667 million a year. About $250 million a year is expected to go toward paying back $3.5 billion in bonds for high-priority projects, such as the widening of Interstate 25 from Castle Rock to Monument and from Denver to Fort Collins, along with the I-70 mountain corridor.
Some Republicans also take issue with $100 million a year for mass transit. They feel more should be directed toward asphalt for traffic solutions.
Here is the letter, in full, that Fix Colorado Roads delivered to lawmakers Tuesday, with the organization’s emphasis.
b>Subject: Finding the Sweet Spot on Transportation Funding
Dear Members of the Colorado General Assembly:
The “sweet spot” in sports is the place on a bat or racket at which the most effective contact is made with the ball. In business, it’s when different factors balance out to give satisfactory results for the key parties in a deal.
In our state’s transportation funding debate, the sweet spot is…
- The right combination of public policy and politics to provide a solution of consequential impact on Colorado’s transportation problem…
- While being able to pass a divided House and Senate with meaningful bi-partisan support to refer a measure to the ballot…
- That then earns a majority of votes from the electorate in an off-year election.
Last month, you heard from Fix Colorado Roads and the heads of Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development organizations around the state calling for the legislature to enact a pragmatic, balanced solution to address the volatility of transportation funding and jumpstart critical transportation projects across the entire state of Colorado. We urged you then, as we do now, to enact a balanced solution that establishes a new long term, dedicated and sustainable source of funds, restores Colorado’s commitment to transportation within our state budget, and reflects the expectations and preferences of voters.
Fix Colorado Roads has been providing guidance and counsel to state leaders on a transportation funding and finance proposal since last fall. The introduction of HB 1242, the foundation of which is the $3.5B bonding package for which we’ve advocated since 2015, was an important first step, and we provided positive commentary in the press to note the progress being made by the mere introduction of a bi-partisan proposal. We are very encouraged by the collaborative work of the Speaker and the President. However, HB 1242 did not emanate from Fix Colorado Roads and has not yet earned our endorsement.
Upon our initial review of HB 17-1242, we have a number of concerns. To secure legislative approval with strong bi-partisan support on a measure that can pass with voters, we believe the measure requires additional work. As now written, HB 17-1242 does not hit the sweet spot.
Your commitment to make the repair and expansion of Colorado’s roads, bridges and mobility options a priority again indicates that we can achieve a landmark agreement this session.
Sandra Hagen Solin
on behalf of Fix Colorado Roads