(May 4) – A Republican effort to plunge the state deep into debt and skew transportation funding in Colorado for the next 20 years was defeated today in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

SB15-272, sponsored by Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, would have referred a proposal to voters for $3.5 billion in transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs bonds). Big chunks of the money would go to widening I-70 in the mountains and I-25 north of Denver, while other parts of the state would be untouched.

Colorado has significant needs to upgrade and maintain its transportation system, including roads, highways, bridges and other modes of transportation. Colorado’s pavement conditions are ranked 37th in the nation. But SB15-272 focused only on new construction and ignores the need for maintenance, repair and operations.

By the time the bonds are repaid, the bill would have authorized up to $5.5 billion, with a B, in state spending. Colorado would use nearly half of its federal transportation revenue to pay off the bonds, and the state Department of Transportation budget would take a 14 percent hit. CDOT will have $280 million less each year to pay for snowplows in the winter and pothole repairs in the spring.

“It doesn’t make any sense to build highways if we can’t take care of them,” said Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, chairwoman of the State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. “SB-272 sacrifices maintenance and repair of our bridges and highways in favor of new construction, when Colorado needs both.”

CDOT says that if SB15-272 passes, Colorado will not have enough money to pay the new bond interest payments and to pay for deferred road maintenance and operations. The CDOT director, Shailen Bhatt, has said passing SB15-272 would be “like putting on a new addition to your home but putting off repairing your roof.”

“To sell this bill as a fix for all of Colorado’s transportation needs is false advertising, pure and simple,” Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said after he voted with the majority on a 6-5 party-line vote. “We need a long-term source of funding to guarantee that our transportation needs are met.”

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