As the New Year approaches, an old problem continues at the Colorado statehouse. Efforts continue to find solutions to transportation funding needs.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the governor recognize that solutions are needed to cover an estimated $1 billion annual shortfall for road construction and maintenance.
The state Legislature acted earlier this year to provide a shot in the arm for transportation purposes. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a $1.9 billion bonding measure to get some needed work done.
Three-quarters of Colorado’s road construction and repair budget comes from the federal government. State 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.
Hickenlooper has recommended a tax increase to help cover transportation expenses. Voters would get the final say as early as next November.
The Democratic governor has been criticized for his $30.5 billion budget proposal for next year. The plan does not tap any of the state’s general funds to help cover transportation work.
Republicans in the Colorado House and Senate say that do not want to wait nearly one year to see if more money will be made available for transportation. Instead, a group of seven legislators wants the governor to tap existing money.
“Given all the rhetoric we’ve heard in recent years about the urgent need to fix Colorado’s crumbling roads, including from this governor, I’m shocked that he couldn’t find room in a $30 billion-plus budget to devote one general fund dollar to this top budget priority,” Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, said in a released statement.
“Obviously the public has no appetite for raising taxes to pay for a long-term road fix, so we must find a way to use existing funds if we want to get started on a solution.”
State lawmakers can pursue transportation funding measures during the regular session that convenes Jan. 10.
Long term, Colorado elected officials are keeping an eye on a possible vehicle-miles-traveled option to cover transportation needs. A four-month study that concluded last spring used 150 motorists to evaluate the feasibility of calculating state transportation funding based on miles driven.
CDOT has a received a half-million dollar federal grant to operate a second pilot within the next year.
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