Voters in Colorado this fall will decide on two measures to fund transportation work.
After months of collecting signatures from residents in the state, two petition efforts have qualified for the Nov. 6 statewide ballot. The questions would use different funding methods to address infrastructure needs.
One question calls for raising the state’s sales tax to generate nearly three-quarters of $1 billion annually for roads. The second question will ask voters whether to use general funds to sell bonds to raise $3.5 billion.
Proposition 110 would increase the state’s 2.9 percent sales tax by 0.62 percent to 3.52 percent. Nearly half of the tax revenue would be dedicated to transportation work, including multimodal projects. Another 40 percent would be earmarked for direct distributions to local governments for their own transportation projects. The remaining 15 percent would be used for multimodal transportation work.
The tax increase is expected to raise $767 million annually. It would sunset in 20 years.
Approval would also authorize the state to sell up to $6 billion in bonds for immediate work.
Proposition 109 would forgo tax or fee increases. Instead, the measure would authorize the issuance of up to $3.5 billion in bonds to fund 66 road and bridge projects.
The Legislature would be responsible for repaying the bonds via the existing state budget.
Bond proceeds would be limited to road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs. Money could not be spent on mass transit projects.
Both Proposition 109 and Proposition 110 could pass, or both could fail.
New transportation deal
Earlier this year Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill to pay for transit, road and bridge projects throughout the state.
Previously SB1, the new law is considered a long-term deal to help the state address a 10-year, $9 billion backlog in transportation needs.
About $645 million in one-time transportation appropriations will be allotted over the next two years. The infusion of revenue comes from the state’s general fund.
The Colorado Department of Transportation will receive 70 percent of the funds. The remaining 30 percent will be split for local road projects and local transit or “multimodal” projects.
“(The new law) certainly doesn’t cover all the projects we need to tackle, but is a great start and one of the largest commitments to transportation from the general fund,” Hickenlooper touted at the bill signing ceremony.
More money could be on the way
Also included in SB1 is a 20-year investment of general fund money in bonds.
Specifically, the plan calls for purchasing $2.34 billion in bonds for transportation work. The state would owe up to $3.25 billion in borrowing over two decades.
Most of the bond money – 85 percent – would be allotted for state highway projects. Transit would claim 15 percent.
In addition, SB1 authorizes a public vote on whether to tap bonds to pay for transportation work. Passage of the fall 2019 ballot question would allow the state to borrow the additional $2.3 billion in bonds.
The question would be removed from next year’s ballot if Proposition 110 is approved on the Nov. 6 ballot.
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