Colorado elections include transportation questions

October 28, 2021

Keith Goble

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Transportation funding is a topic of multiple measures on fall ballots throughout the state of Colorado.

The Election Day process already has begun in Colorado. Ballots were mailed throughout the state in early October. The state has all-mail voting.

The statewide ballot includes a question to change the process for deciding how certain transportation dollars are spent.

Amendment 78

Amendment 78 is an initiated amendment to the Colorado Constitution. The question was added after fulfilling a petition process earlier this year.

If approved by 55% of voters, the state constitution would be amended to transfer the power to appropriate custodial funds to the Colorado General Assembly.

Custodial funds, or revenue generated outside state government, now are appropriated by the state treasurer. Affected funds include federal transportation aid, emergency relief, pension, and court-approved settlements.

Typically, these funds come with guidelines for use. The state agency receiving the funds ultimately makes the final decision on spending.

The proposed amendment would instead make the state legislature responsible for making decisions on appropriations. A public comment period followed by a public hearing to appropriate funds would be required.

Interest earned would be put into the state’s general fund.

Ballots in multiple locales around the state will determine whether transportation work receives funding.

City of Denver

The ballot in the city of Denver includes a question for transportation and mobility system bonds.

Question 2C asks voters whether to tap bonds for $63.3 million in transportation work. Specifically, money would be used for road reconstruction, pedestrian projects, and other “transportation safety improvements.”

Four years ago, Denver voters approved the use of general obligation bonds to aid transportation work.

Passage authorized the city to issue $937 million in bonds for more than 460 projects. The borrowing covered $431 million for transportation and mobility systems.

The vote dedicated $101 million to deferred maintenance citywide, including repaving, and major bridge rehabilitation. Another $55 million was designated for bus rapid transit, $30 million for sidewalk construction, and $18 million for bike lanes.

Other projects include improvements to the public safety system, library system, parks and recreation system, and public facilities system.

El Paso County

Voters in El Paso County will decide on about $15 million in surplus revenues from Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights revenue funds largely for transportation work.

Colorado law now caps revenue under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. In place since 1992, TABOR requires voter approval for all new taxes, tax rate increases, or tax policy changes that result in increased tax revenue.

If approved, Question 1A would devote about $13 million to local road projects. The ballot question identifies 17 roadway improvement projects throughout the county located east of Colorado Springs.

The remaining amount would be used for other work that includes parks and trails.

The county attributes the surplus revenues from increased sales tax collections. Additionally, economic stimulus funds allocated to the county during the pandemic and highway user taxes are among the sources of additional revenue.

If the question fails, property owners would get a rebate from TABOR surplus revenues on their property taxes.

In 2017, county voters approved $14.5 million in TABOR surplus revenues for transportation work.

At the time, the county reported a $200 million backlog of road and bridge projects.

About $6 million was earmarked to widen Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock. The rest was designated for local road projects, disaster recovery projects, and other work that includes parks and trails. LL

More election coverage

Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, is keeping track of transportation questions on fall ballots across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.

TBS

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.