Colorado lawmaker eyes school funds for roads

| 8/26/2009

“Where do we find the money?” It’s a question that might remind you of watching some suspense movie, but officials in Colorado are addressing similar inquiries.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, wants lawmakers to consider tapping into money now earmarked for public schools to pay for road construction. He suggested that the revenue source could generate nearly $4 billion for highway construction over the next decade.

During a meeting of the Long-Term Fiscal Stability Commission, Brophy brought up the possibility of accessing a portion of money now devoted to basic state aid for schools. Colorado law requires that state funding for public schools be indexed for inflation plus 1 percent.

But once the calendar turns to 2012, the 1 percent requirement is set to expire. That’s when Brophy would like to shift the revenue to roads and bridges. Over a 10-year period, he said it would amount to $3.8 billion for transportation projects, The Denver Post reported.

A special transportation panel appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter decided in 2007 that the state needs to come up with an extra $500 million annually just to keep pace with road and bridge needs. In addition, the group said Colorado needs to find another $1.5 billion a year to pay for transportation work. The group recommended the state boost a combination of fees and the fuel, sales and severance taxes.

The fiscal stability commission was established during this year’s legislative session to look at fiscal problems resulting from tight budgets and recommend how to resolve them, which includes transportation funding. They are scheduled to meet several times during the next few months before issuing a final report.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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