(March 22) – A groundbreaking, bipartisan compromise to overhaul Colorado’s crumbling, overburdened transportation system made a successful debut today in the House Transportation & Energy Committee.
“There are now twice as many vehicles on Colorado’s roads as in 1990. That’s twice as many cars to get stuck behind in traffic,” Speaker Crisanta Duran told the committee. She added that instead of expanding to meet increasing demand, the Colorado transportation system is crumbling: “Almost half of our existing bridges need preventive maintenance. Four-fifths of our existing highways will need repairs or major reconstruction in the next 10 years.”
“The bill provides sustainable, predictable, long-term funding for a truly multimodal, 21st-century system,” said Rep. Mitsch Bush, the chairwoman of the House Transportation & Energy Committee, who is sponsoring HB-1242 with Speaker Duran.
The bill would refer a measure to the November 2017 ballot asking voters to raise the state sales tax by 0.62% — 6 cents on a $10 purchase. The increase would generate roughly $695 million annually. 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.
An amendment adopted tonight eliminates FASTER late fees, bringing further savings for Coloradans. Other actions taken by the committee include:
- Increasing the initial allocation of dollars from the tax increase to CDOT from $300 million to $375 million
- Reducing the matching requirement for small governments to help them unlock dollars from the multimodal fund.
- Enhancing supports for low-income Coloradans to have access to affordable transportation.
The revenue would finance $3.5 billion in bonds for transportation projects prioritized by the state Transportation Commission. Of the remainder, 70 percent go 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.
“This isn’t just about where we are in the year 2017,” Speaker Duran told the committee. “This is about generations who will follow us.”
Elected officials from the Western Slope, the Eastern Plains and up and down the Front Range testified in support of HB17-1242. Rural advocacy groups – Club 20, Action 22 and Progressive 15 – enthusiastically supported the bill. Representatives of business and education also spoke in favor. Former Reps. Max Tyler of Lakewood and J. Paul Brown of Ignacio traveled from opposite ends of the political spectrum to appear together at the witness table in favor of the bill.
“We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with the public and the entire General Assembly,” Speaker Duran told the committee. “I respectfully ask for your vote to let the people of Colorado decide whether or not they want to invest more in transportation.”
The Transportation Committee voted 8-5 to send HB17-1242 to the Finance Committee.