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Americans for Prosperity targets four GOP senators over transportation funding legislation

Author: Ernest Luning - March 15, 2017 - Updated: March 15, 2017

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State Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, confers with Michael Fields, state director of Americans for Prosperity Colorado, at a Republican Party vacancy committee convened on Jan. 9, 2016, in Centennial to fill Tate's former House seat after he was named to a vacant Senate seat. Fields lost a primary to Tate in 2014 for the GOP nomination in House District 37. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
State Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, confers with Michael Fields, state director of Americans for Prosperity Colorado, at a Republican Party vacancy committee convened on Jan. 9, 2016, in Centennial to fill Tate’s former House seat after he was named to a vacant Senate seat. Fields lost a primary to Tate in 2014 for the GOP nomination in House District 37. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Americans for Prosperity Colorado announced plans Wednesday to rain down pressure on four Republican senators who have yet to state a position on a bipartisan transportation funding package unveiled last week by legislative leadership.

The conservative advocacy organization’s state director, Michael Fields, said the four GOP lawmakers — Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and state Sens. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, Kevin Priola, R-Brighton, and Jack Tate, R-Centennial — can expect “tens of thousands” of phone calls urging opposition to House Bill 1242, which proposes asking voters to approve a nearly $700 million state sales tax hike to pay for road construction and other transit needs.

“Key state senators have yet not come out in opposition to the massive statewide sales tax increase, and their constituents deserve to know where they stand on House Bill 1242,” Fields said in a statement.

He told The Colorado Statesman that more lawmakers could be added to AFP’s target list in the near future.

The bill has faced a fierce backlash from Republican legislators, although two leading GOP senators are among its chief sponsors.

The legislation would refer a ballot question to voters in November asking for an additional 0.62 percent added to the state sales tax , bringing the rate to 3.52 percent, for 20 years. Proceeds would finance $3.5 billion in transportation bonds, as well as distribute funds to counties and municipalities for road work and pay for “multimodal” transportation projects around the state. If approved, the referendum would also return $75 million a year in vehicle registration fees to taxpayers.

Its initial sponsors are Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, and House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and the chairs of both chambers’ transportation committees, state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, and state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.

“One of our primary purposes as an organization is to inform citizens regarding policies that impact their economic freedom and to hold elected officials accountable — we will do that regarding this proposed $700 million tax increase,” Fields said.

The bill has its first scheduled hearing in a week, before the House Transportation and Energy Committee on Wednesday, March 22.

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform organization came out swinging against the proposed legislation on Monday, urging Colordo lawmakers to oppose the bill.

“Some lawmakers contend this regressive tax hike is needed because transportation is a priority,” Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote in a letter to legislators. “Yet lawmakers calling for a tax hike to fund transportation are actually admitting that transportation is their lowest priority. Were that not the case, they would not have funded everything else in the budget first.”

In addition, the conservative Independence Institute has filed a proposed ballot measure called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” which would ask voters to approve $2.5 billion in transportation bonds to be financed with existing state revenues.

ernest@coloradostatesman.com

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


One comment

  • Carol Kotchek

    March 23, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    First of all is not Americans for Prosperity a Koch brothers organization? Second of all who are making these “tens of thousands” of phone calls. Are these phone calls coming from actual Colorado citizens or people paid by Americans for Prosperity? I don’t believe Grover Norquist lives in Colorado. Do these people know anything about the Colorado budget?

    Freedom is not derived from roads full of potholes and failing infrastructure. Freedom is derived from the right of us Colorado citizens to be able to vote on this proposal.

    Reply

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