The Colorado Springs Gazette: Stop plotting transportation tax hike
Author: The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board - May 1, 2018 - Updated: May 1, 2018
Politicians plotting a new transportation tax should stop wasting their time. Don’t even think about it. Colorado voters will not reward state government’s irresponsible neglect of highways by approving a tax hike.
“In November, Colorado voters could be asked to approve as much as a penny-per-dollar sales tax to support transportation,” explains a story in Colorado Politics by reporter Joey Bunch. “Negotiations are going on behind closed doors. Even the names of elected officials who attend the private meetings are being kept secret.”
Bunch knows about the invitation-only meetings because someone sneaked him a call-in number, and he used it.
“That call-in number was shared with me by others listening in who are concerned about Denver interests controlling the process with a heavy hand and arguably sidestepping the state’s Sunshine Law,” Bunch wrote.
The meetings may be legal, despite violating the spirit of Colorado’s open meetings laws.
Transparency concerns aside, the prospect of a 1-cent transportation tax on November’s ballot should trigger a collective gag reflect.
State government finds itself awash in revenue, without a tax increase.
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday signed into law a record-breaking $28.9 billion state budget for fiscal year 2018-19. It spends $495 million on transportation projects and boosts education spending by $150 million. Even discretionary spending goes up 7.5 percent.
“Strong consumer spending, coupled with a booming stock market, the federal tax code overhaul and a resurgent oil and gas industry are projected to grow the Colorado state general fund by as much as $1.29 billion next fiscal year,” said a March 20 Denver Post article.
“The two quarterly revenue forecasts released Monday by the governor’s office and the Colorado Legislative Council both project a significant boost to tax collections this fiscal year and next, leaving the state with more than $500 million more to spend than economists expected during the most recent forecasts three months ago.”
Colorado’s highways and bridges are not in shambles because the state has been without resources. They are neglected by design. Politicians believe voters will tire of bad roads, getting so disgusted they will raise taxes to fix them. Meanwhile, they spend lavishly on Medicaid expansion. They ponder subsidizing more “affordable housing” and other social programs that fall outside the core responsibilities of state government.
If voters raise taxes by 1-cent, as discussed in the secret meetings, sales taxes in Colorado Springs rise to 9.25 percent. That means government gets nearly 10-cents each time a person spends a dollar.
It is wrong to think this would make Colorado Springs more like the progressive cities of San Francisco and New York. We would outdo them. San Francisco’s combined sales tax is 8.5 percent. New York City consumers pay 8.875 percent. We would rank high among the highest sales tax regions of the country.
The tax would be on top of transportation tolls the state imposes on every new freeway lane. If the Colorado Department of Transportation finally widens the long-neglected I-25 gap between Denver and the Springs, the agency will put a toll on anyone who uses it.
Colorado voters are not stupid. They know what is going on, even in secret meetings. Don’t ask them for more taxes this fall. The answer will be “no” for a list of good reasons.