Colorado budget provides more money for roads

April 15, 2019

Keith Goble


The topic of finding money for roads in Colorado continues to get a lot of attention.

House and Senate lawmakers have reached agreement on a $30.5 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

The transportation sector would receive among the biggest slices of the budget pie. The roads department will receive $300 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year that begins July 1.

The amount of money for roads is a drop in the bucket compared to total needs identified by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The agency has said the state needs about $9 billion over the next decade.

The money will be split between the state DOT and local governments. Specifically, the earmarks will be used for road work and maintenance, and mass transit.

Gov. Jared Polis will now consider the budget bill. The governor has line-item veto authority. The distinction permits him to remove items in the budget bill.

2018 transportation deal

The legislative action this year follows on the heels of then-Gov. John Hickenlooper signing into law a bill to pay for transit, road and bridge projects throughout the state.

The 2018 law appropriated $645 million in one-time funds to transportation over two years. The infusion of revenue comes from the state’s general fund.

CDOT will receive 70% of the funds. The remaining 30% will be split for local road projects and local transit or multimodal projects.

2019 ballot question

Transportation funding will not be settled for the year with approval of the budget bill. The state’s fall ballot is set to include a question to tap bonds to pay for transportation work.

Passage of the fall ballot question would allow the state to borrow $2.3 billion in bonds. Combined with other investments, the bonds would fund nearly $3.5 billion in infrastructure improvements.

Fuel tax elimination

A bipartisan effort underway at the statehouse would begin the process of eliminating the state’s collection of a fuel tax.

Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, have introduced legislation to amend the state’s Constitution to abandon collection of the state’s 22-cent gas tax and 20.5-cent diesel rate. In return, Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 would increase the state sales and use tax to cover money for roads and other transportation funding needs.

Supporters say the switch would quickly allow the state to raise more revenue than the fuel tax. They cite continuing declines in fuel tax revenue as vehicles become more fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles become more popular.

SCR3 is scheduled for consideration on April 18 in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee.

Passage at the statehouse would require two-thirds support in both chambers. If that occurs, voters would get the final say in 2020.