(March 31) – The House gave bipartisan backing today to a sweeping program to repair and expand Colorado’s crumbling transportation system.
“We have reached an important milepost for the future of our state,” Speaker Crisanta Duran said after the 41-24 vote in favor of the most far-reaching bill of the session.
HB17-1242, sponsored by Speaker Duran, D-Denver, and Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, would refer a measure to the November 2017 ballot asking Colorado voters to raise the state sales tax by 0.62 percent — 6 cents on a $10 purchase. The increase would generate roughly $695 million annually specifically to implement a comprehensive, statewide transportation plan. Simultaneously, the bill would reduce vehicle registration fees, resulting in roughly $80 million in savings for motorists, and it would reallocate $50 million in existing state revenue toward transportation projects.
The first $375 million in new revenue would finance $3.5 billion in bonds for transportation projects prioritized by the state Transportation Commission. Of the remainder, 70 percent goes to local governments so they can address their most urgent needs, and 30 percent would go toward flexible transportation options to move people efficiently where they need to go, help elderly and disabled Coloradans maintain their independence and make it easier and safer for children to get to and from school. The bill would also put thousands of Coloradans to work.
The entire Democratic caucus supported the bill, joined by Republican Reps. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park, Marc Catlin of Montrose, Phil Covarrubias of Brighton and Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction. “We have to be the adults in the room,” Rep. Lawrence told the House.
After years of penny-pinching state budgets, almost half of Colorado’s bridges need preventive maintenance and four-fifths of our highways will need repairs or major reconstruction in the next 10 years. CDOT estimates $9 billion is needed to repair and upgrade our transportation system to meet our growing state’s needs.
“Think about the plight of working Coloradans who get up every single day and do everything they can to provide for themselves and their families,” Speaker Duran told the House. “They are impacted negatively when the roads they travel are not in decent shape.”
“Our economic competitiveness is at stake if we do not fund transportation,” Rep. Mitsch Bush told the House. She is the chairwoman of the House Transportation & Energy Committee. The Senate sponsors are President Kevin Grantham R-Canon City, and the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs.
“Please join us to let the people decide what our transportation system is going to look like for the next generation,” Speaker Duran told the House.
HB17-1242 is on its way to the state Senate.