Colorado transport panel suggests fees, higher taxes

| 11/1/2007

Talk in Colorado about how to pay for billions of dollars of transportation work includes a suggestion to double the fuel tax rate.

A transportation panel appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter decided the state should consider spending $2 billion annually to help maintain and build highways. The Governor’s Task Force on Transportation Finance is recommending a mix of funding sources, including higher taxes on diesel and gasoline, as well as sales and mineral severance taxes.

Another option on the table is to charge a “highway maintenance” registration fee on all vehicles.

The panel said $2 billion a year would provide enough revenue to pay for significant congestion and intrastate transit projects. A minimum of $500 million a year is needed simply to maintain existing roads, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

In order to reach $2 billion a year, the panel members said that tax increases would need to be implemented, including increasing the fuel tax rates to 44 cents per gallon. The current rate for diesel is 20.5 cents while the tax on gasoline is 22 cents.

The task force also suggested increasing vehicle registration fees by an average of $100 annually while the sales tax would increase 0.55 percent and the natural resources severance tax would be increased 2 percent.

The task force is scheduled to make final recommendations to Ritter on a range of funding options on Nov. 15. They could be brought up during the regular legislative session that begins after the first of the year.

The governor is keeping his cards close to his vest when it comes to talk about increasing the state’s fuel tax rates to pay for road work. Ritter said he is withholding comment so that his opinion doesn’t pre-empt the work of the panel.

Any effort to increase taxes in the state would need to pass muster with voters before it could take effect. Voters rejected the most recent attempt to raise the fuel tax in 1998.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor