Dear Colorado legislature, get on the bus, but don’t step on the gas.
That’s the takeaway from a letter more than 20 chambers and other business organizations sent to lawmakers Friday urging them to support an ongoing source of revenue for transportation, meaning revenue from growth that’s locked into the state budget.
Transportation funding is expected to be a major issue at the statehouse again this year.
“The congestion and road safety situation in the state is at a watershed moment, so it is encouraging that the governor and many legislators have engaged in a very hopeful dialogue around the right questions: How much taxpayer money can we invest and for how long?” former state Sen. Mike Kopp, who is president and CEO of Colorado Concern, said in a statement.
“The public will applaud them if they reach the $300 million level for an extended period of time.”
Colorado leaders have looked at the dicey proposition of asking voters to raise gas or sales taxes, but proposals have bogged down at the state level, where Republicans eschew higher taxes (especially in prosperous times). Locally, municipalities contend they need to reserve voters’ willingness to raise sales taxes for local needs.
Proponents of reserving money in the state budget point to Colorado’s growth, but Democrats say Republicans want to cash in during the good times, which will dictate deep cuts to schools and social programs when the economy slows.
Transportation proponents contend the state should reserve $300 million to repay bonds to jump-start major projects, such as the clogged stretch from Monument to Castle Rock and from Denver to Fort Collins, as well as the I-70 mountain corridor.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has requested $148.2 million next year and some undetermined amount the year after — a far cry from $300 million a year to repay bonds.
The letter states in part:
Why is this important?
Growth and economic prosperity are a double edge sword. We laud the significant economic gains and the recognition for being one of the strongest state economies in the country. But, frustration with growth is increasing in large part because our transportation infrastructure isn’t keeping pace.
And then there are counties and towns in Colorado that are struggling economically. While they may not have the growth pressures of some urban areas, they have important transportation projects that need attention.
Coloradans know state revenues are increasing, and they expect state leaders to invest some of those dollars in transportation infrastructure.
The business groups that endorsed the letter were rallied by Fix Colorado Roads, a statewide coalition that has been working at the Capitol to gin up long-term investment in transportation since 2015.
“Today, we join with chambers of commerce and business leaders across the state in imploring legislative leaders and the governor to invest in the corridors that will keep our economy moving forward,” Fix Colorado Roads’ Sandra Hagen Solin said in a statement. “These groups represent communities along the most important economic corridors in the state and businesses in every Colorado industry sector.”
Chris Romer, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, said addressing transportation is key to Colorado’s long-term economic success.
“We are keenly aware of the economic impacts that aging transportation infrastructure has on our economy,” he said.
Added David May, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, “Transportation corridors are essential to sustained economic prosperity and the ability to attract new employers and retain existing industries. Another year of legislative inaction on transportation would not be helpful to Colorado’s economy.”
The signers of the letter are:
- Dirk Draper, CEO and president
Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC
- Carl Maxey, Chairman
Northern Colorado legislative alliance
- Mike Kopp, president and CEO
- Greg Fulton, president
Colorado Motor Carriers Association
- Chris Romer, president and CEO
Vail Valley Partnership
- David May, president and CEO
Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce
- Robert Golden, president and CEO
South Metro Chamber of Commerce
- Mindy McCloughan, president and CEO
Loveland Chamber of Commerce
- Sarah MacQuiddy, president
Greeley Chamber of Commerce
- Rich Werner, president and CEO
Upstate Colorado Economic Development
- Andy Montgomery, CEO
Northern Colorado Economic Alliance
- Jack Llewellyn, executive director
Durango Chamber of Commerce
- Kara Stoller, CEO
Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association
- Angie Anderson, president and CEO
Glenwood Chamber Resort Association
- Shelly McManus, executive director
Kremmling Area Chamber of Commerce
- Melanie Swearengin, executive director
Conifer Area Chamber of Commerce
- Debbie Miller, president
Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce
- Barry Gore, president and CEO
Adams County Economic Development
- Gregg Moss, president and CEO
Metro North Chamber of Commerce
- Dave Davia, executive vice president and CEO
Colorado Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Contractors
- Jeff Wasden, president
Colorado Business Roundtable
- Deanne Mulvihill, executive director
Berthoud Area Chamber of Commerce