Colorado road funding solution to get first hearing today

January 23, 2018

Keith Goble

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A major initiative at the Colorado statehouse to help get transportation work done is scheduled to get a first hearing today.

The Senate Transportation Committee is expected to discuss legislation that would divert state sales and use tax revenue from the state’s general fund to the state highway fund. Sponsored by Republicans Sens. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and John Cooke of Greeley, SB1 also would refer a ballot measure to voters this fall.

If approved by voters, the Colorado Department of Transportation would issue $3.5 billion in transportation revenue anticipation notes, or bonds, to cover work to address “critical priority transportation needs.” According to a fiscal note attached to the bill, the bonds would have a maximum repayment cost of $5 billion over 20 years.

Advocates say the bill would fund road and bridge work without a tax increase.

Specifically, SB1 calls for diverting 10 percent of sales and use tax revenue from the general fund to transportation.

Critics say the money would be pulled away from education and other programs.

Baumgardner said the Legislature needs to act on their own to fund transportation because Gov. John Hickenlooper is not doing enough on his end. He cited the governor’s recommended allotment of $148 million for transportation work from a predicted $1 billion surplus in new revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“While the sums of money Hickenlooper floated offered a welcome starting point for discussions, they fell short of the long-term commitment required to tackle the state’s $9 billion road maintenance backlog,” Baumgardner said in a news release.

During his final State of the State address on Jan. 11, the Democratic governor said he wants to let voters decide whether the state should raise new revenue for transportation. He has indicated support for a tax increase to help cover transportation work.

“Not only do we underfund maintenance by more than $200 million a year, but we also have a project list of $9 billion. Total needs are estimated to be $25 billion by 2040,” the governor said.

Long-term solution
Three-quarters of Colorado’s road construction and repair budget comes from the federal government. At the state level, funds come via fuel taxes, vehicle fees, and toll lanes. General funds and bonds also can be tapped to pay for infrastructure work.

Despite the multiple funding sources now in place, the Colorado Department of Transportation estimates a $10 billion shortfall over the next decade. The agency attributes the budget gap to a decline in fuel taxes.

Colorado now charges a 22-cent tax on gas and a 20.5-cent tax on diesel.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado, click here.

Lucas Oil

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.