The Colorado Springs Gazette: ‘Fix Our Damn Roads’ gets a green light
Author: The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board - May 9, 2018 - Updated: May 9, 2018
Even with a record-breaking budget surplus exceeding $1 billion, Colorado legislators struggled all session on a transportation bill to fix the state’s dangerously inadequate bridges and highways.
With the session’s end looming Wednesday, House and Senate leaders announced a compromise Monday on Senate Bill 1. The transportation funding proposal — the first bill introduced in 2018 — passed the Democrat-controlled House on a party line vote Tuesday. Though no House Republicans voted for the bill, the Republican-controlled Senate passed it late Tuesday night.
If Coloradans don’t like this bill, they could decide to take charge at the ballot box.
As explained by Colorado Politics writer Joey Bunch, Senate Bill 1 puts $495 million into roads, bridges and alternative transportation this year, $150 million next year then allows the state to borrow $2.3 billion to be repaid over the next 20 years. It taps the state general fund for $122.6 million a year.
“Granted, only about $50 million a year is new money, with the rest coming from previous legislation and existing tax dollars that go to the state highway department,” Bunch explained.
Even for some who support the measure, it seems too little-too late.
“It’s not enough. That’s why we need to see a new ballot initiative pass for new revenue,” said House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.
“New revenue” likely means “tax increase,” regardless of the state’s massive surplus.
As reported in this space May 1, Bunch recently caught politicians and business leaders meeting secretly to plot a 1-cent sales tax increase proposal.
As the fate of SB1 remained unclear in the final days of the 2018 session, another plan to fix highways made serious progress.
The Colorado Title Board and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams each approved the ballot language of a petition called “Fix our damn roads.” It asks voters for permission to issue “transportation revenue anticipation notes” to raise $3.5 billion in debt, immediately, without raising taxes or fees. Voters would decide this November. Passage would fund work in early 2019.
As stated in the ballot proposal, revenues would fund only “specified road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance, and repair projects throughout the state.”
Relying on an extensive list created by the Colorado Department of Transportation, the ballot language directs money to projects that include widening I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock, a major section of I-25 through northern Colorado, and various rural and urban upgrades throughout the state.
“We expect our lawmakers to Do Their Damn Jobs and fund this core function of state government,” wrote Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a free-market public policy organization circulating and funding petitions for the measure.
“We expect lawmakers to stop holding our roads and bridges hostage…”
A poll by Magellan Strategies and Public Policy Polling shows 73 percent support for “Fix our damn roads” among likely voters.
Transportation is not a joke, and should not be a bargaining chip that pits the political class against the public. Good roads are essential to economic stability, and public safety.
After Gov. John Hickenlooper signs SB1, the public should decide whether this law does enough to fix highways, roads, and bridges fast enough. If not, they may have the option of a replacement solution at the ballot in November.