Sandra Hagen Solin Archives - Colorado Politics

Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 12, 20186min9010

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
    Colorado Concern
  • 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

Joey BunchJoey BunchDecember 23, 201711min3470


John TomasicJohn TomasicMay 10, 20177min143

<a href="" target="_blank">Sandra Hagen Solin</a>, spokesperson for the <a href="" target="_blank">Fix Colorado Roads</a> economic-development coalition, worked the legislative trenches all year to bring Capitol leaders to a place where they could make a deal to pass a major transportation funding proposal. After months of back and forth, leadership this session brought out House Bill 1242, which failed spectacularly. Critics called it a mess of conflicting impulses and ambitions. Republicans hated it for being centered around a sales tax hike, and few observers on any side of the political spectrum believed that voters would even approve the tax hike if it made it to the ballot -- which made the whole exercise feel academic, like it was a deal and a proposal in theory only.

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 15, 20175min1140

What’s the old adage — lean hard on your enemies and on your friends, lean harder? OK, that’s not at all how it goes, but it sure fits politics well sometimes. The latest example: a campaign announced today by the conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity in opposition to the recently announced — and already much criticized — ballot proposal hatched in the legislature to hike the state sales tax for transportation.

The pending proposal that could appear on the statewide ballot in November would ask voters to approve a 0.62 percent sales tax as well as $3.5 billion in bonds to fund wide-ranging highway projects and mass transit. The tax would raise $667 million a year, $250 million of which would service the bond debt and another $100 million of which would help expand transit.

The proposal, which first must pass the legislature as House Bill 1242, doesn’t sit well with AFP or assorted others on the right because in their eyes, it raises taxes without first digging deeper into the existing state budget to find any fat. The proposal emerged from the split-control legislature as a touted compromise between Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran of Denver and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City.

No sooner had the effort been announced than Republicans in the legislature began to revolt. The House GOP minority leadership and even Grantham’s own No. 2, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker, announced they were all “no” votes. AFP now wants to make sure the rebellion spreads, so it’s turning up the heat on its own conservative kinsmen in the upper chamber — where Republican rule presents the greatest chance of derailing the measure. From an AFP new release Wednesday afternoon:

…State (AFP) Director Michael Fields asserts, “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 continues, “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.”

Senate districts that can expect to hear from AFP activists include SD1, Jerry Sonnenberg’s district, SD12, Bob Gardner’s district, SD25, Kevin Priola’s district and SD27, Jack Tate’s district. Additional districts may be added.

Lawmakers are of course used to rough play from the opposing party, but sometimes they have to watch their backs, too.

No one disputes the sales-tax hike could be a tough sell; both sides acknowledge an early poll showing Coloradans lean against the proposal.

AFP’s press release points to what it says are viable alternatives for upgrading the state’s woefully bottlenecked and backlogged highway network:

…1) extending the 1999 TRANS bonds 2) The Independence Institute’s proposal that would require the General Assembly to issue $2.5 billion in bonds to fund select statewide highway projects statewide and repaying the debt by “reallocating priorities in the state budget,” and 3) Senator Jerry Sonnenberg’s proposal which includes a smaller bonding plan using existing revenue.

Casting further doubt on support for the compromise, at least in its current form, the group Fix Colorado Roads — which helped convene stakeholders and pushed for the accord, has withheld its own endorsement pending some tweaks. As’s Joey Bunch reported Tuesday:

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.

In other words, lawmakers supporting the deal have their work cut out for them.