State Legislature

Transportation funding proposal veers into ditch

Senate Republicans reject idea of letting voters decide on sales tax

Staff report
Posted 4/28/17

A bill that would have asked Colorado voters to approve a sales tax increase to help fund billions of dollars in transportation projects has been rejected by Republicans in the state Senate.

But the Democratic speaker of the House is optimistic …

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State Legislature

Transportation funding proposal veers into ditch

Senate Republicans reject idea of letting voters decide on sales tax

Posted

A bill that would have asked Colorado voters to approve a sales tax increase to help fund billions of dollars in transportation projects has been rejected by Republicans in the state Senate.

But the Democratic speaker of the House is optimistic the nearly two-month discussion surrounding House Bill 1242 will be good for the state in the long run. The state transportation system faces a $1 billion per year funding shortfall, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“While I am disappointed by today's outcome,” said Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, “I am hopeful that House Bill 1242 has started a conversation that must continue if we are going to have a transportation system that keeps us out of traffic jams and helps Colorado businesses generate jobs for our people.”

The bill was defeated by a 3-2 vote in a Senate committee on April 25. If it had been approved at the Capitol and then passed by voters in November, it would have raised the state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.4 percent from 2018 through 2037.

State Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, is one of the three Republicans who voted down the measure in the Senate Finance Committee.

He said the state should exhaust other options before raising taxes and called HB 1242 “kind of a bait-and-switch,” saying very little of the money would have gone to the I-25 corridor.

State Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, said he wasn't surprised to see the bill's demise.

“Although I feel strongly that funding for roads and bridges needs to be a top priority in Colorado, I would not have voted to increase the sales tax in our state,” he said. “New demands on the taxpayer aren't the solution.”

But state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, called it a “sad day for Colorado.”

“As Sen. Nancy Todd and I noted in the Transportation Committee, Coloradans have a right to vote on whether to approve funding to fill potholes in roads and fix crumbling bridges,” she said. “This was the time. If not now, when?”

Lawmakers are working on other transportation-funding measures as time runs out on the legislative session, which adjourns May 10.

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