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Updated: Transportation ballot initiative could seek money only for local Colorado needs

Author: Joey Bunch - March 22, 2018 - Updated: April 6, 2018

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transportationTraffic comes to a standstill along Interstate 25 in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)

Update:

The paperwork for a new ballot initiative was filed by a statewide coalition of business interests. It has two parts, the chamber said after filing it, much of it Colorado Politics previewed last week.

A sales tax increase of 0.35 percent to address local and multimodal projects. Forty percent will go to municipalities, 40 percent to counties, the rest to multimodal projects. This Denver Metro Chamber said that it’s expected to raise $432 million in the first year. It also would allow the state to bond up to $3.7 billion for state highway projects with “whatever amount the state legislature dedicates to transportation on an ongoing basis,” a chamber spokeswoman said Monday.

The original post:

DENVER — A statewide coalition of business and civic interests is filing a fifth possible question for the November ballot, one that would scale its sales tax increase and divide the transportation money with local, county and regional transit authorities.

The coalition, led by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, already has submitted ballot proposals for sales taxes of .50 cents, 0.62 and a full penny, as well as a fourth possibility that would ask for a half-penny and require the legislature put in $150 million from the state budget each year.

The ballot plan is a backup, as state lawmakers debate putting significant money each year into transportation from the state budget to repay $3.5 billion in bonds. The goal is to jump-start major transportation projects, such as widening interstates 25 and 70 in congested areas.

“As a member of the coalition, the chamber continues to work with our partners throughout the state and closely monitor the legislature’s efforts to ensure we address our state’s critical transportation needs,” Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber, told Colorado Politics Thursday. “It’s important to keep all options on the table.”

Under the proposal discussed on a conference call with chamber leaders and mayors from across the state Wednesday afternoon, municipal and county governments would each get 35 percent of the revenue, and regional authorities would get 30 percent.

The lower tax amount would provide local projects about the same revenue they would make up the 0.62 sales tax.

The deadline to submit paperwork to get on the November ballot is Friday.

Ultimately the group will settle on one ballot question, then try to collect 98,492 signatures from registered voters — 2 percent of the registered voters from each of the 35 state Senate districts — in the next six months to get the question on the November ballot.

Wednesday night the Colorado Senate amended a bill to ask voters for permission to borrow the money, taking $300 million a year from the state budget to repay the bonds. Amendments lowered the amount to $250 million a year, and put the request to voters off until the November 2019 ballot.

The point, however, would be moot if a ballot measure for a new sales tax passes — or a competing one being considered by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute to force lawmakers to use existing tax money to pay for transportation —  passes this November.

Senate Bill 1 is awaiting a recorded vote in the upper chamber before it goes to the House for more deliberation. House Speaker Crisanta Duran, however, supports a referred ballot measure from the legislature than one handled by outside groups.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to fix a misplaced decimal.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.