DONNA LYNNE: A statewide sales-tax increase — that meets local needs
Author: Donna Lynne - June 7, 2018 - Updated: June 7, 2018
Whether it is driving across failing bridges, battling congestion on your way to work or footing the bill for repairs to your car caused by potholes, I know you have a transportation horror story. You aren’t alone. With nearly half of Colorado’s major roads and highways in poor or mediocre condition, these stories are the rule, not the exception. More than $9 billion in needed state transportation projects have been identified with no funding in sight.
Gas tax, long seen as the solution for raising money for roads, has outlived its usefulness as more efficient forms of transportation lower its utility and our failure to tie the tax to inflation eats away at what we do have to spend. Declining funding coupled with tremendous population growth means today we invest just $69 per person in our infrastructure. That’s a far cry from 25 years ago when we spent $125 per person. Our inadequate transportation system is costing Colorado $6.8 billion annually in repairs, traffic delays and crashes.
Two clear principles must guide our future. We must acknowledge the very real differences between our urban and rural communities and allow for localized solutions. And we must see transportation infrastructure as inextricably connected to affordable housing and jobs.
While the state legislature should be commended for the important, bi-partisan work they did this session to put new money in transportation, the reality is those investments won’t come close to meeting the need. We need a better path forward that can break Colorado out of the cycle of underfunding transportation in too many parts of the state, allowing us to invest more wisely in a comprehensive, statewide solution.
First, we have to focus on supporting sustainable, responsible transportation funding. We can’t fix this problem within our existing state budget. And we can’t bond our way out of it either. We need new, dedicated funding for transportation. I support the plan to couple a 20-year statewide sales tax increase with limited bonding authority to make a meaningful impact in meeting state and local infrastructure needs.
Next, we must ensure local priorities are met. High-density population centers along the Front Range need public transportation solutions. These are simply necessary to address the tremendous population growth across the Front Range and are a critical part of ensuring all Coloradans, including those living with disabilities, as well as seniors, can access medical care, employment and handle tasks of daily living independently and with dignity. But we must acknowledge that those projects simply won’t work in many parts of the state where continued reliance on driving is high and necessary.
We have taken important steps recently to invest in clean transportation through Colorado’s Electric Vehicle Plan. This comprehensive approach to spurring greater electric vehicle use addresses everything from growing our charging infrastructure to expanding the state’s use of electric vehicles in its own fleet.
As governor, I would be committed to ensuring a comprehensive approach to solving our transportation woes isn’t just a plan. I would ensure it is implemented and effective.