(Feb. 21) – Democrats on the House Transportation & Energy Committee voted today to defeat a bill that would have saddled the state with billions of dollars in debt that it would never be able to pay without raiding school funding.
HB18-1119, sponsored by Rep. Tim Leonard, R-Evergreen, would have asked the voters to authorize $3.5 million in debt financing for road construction projects.
Under the bill, all of this new transportation money would go to the state, cutting off local governments. There are more than twice as many lane miles of county roads as state highway miles, not to mention city streets. A bill passed last session, SB17-267, freed up $100 million for transportation spending and gave local governments a slice of the pie. HB18-1119 would have repealed last year’s law.
“I’m committed to finding transportation solutions that work, but mortgaging our future and putting our education funding at risk is irresponsible,” said Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster. “Because the payments on the bonds would come due in good times and bad, this bill would have guaranteed that in the next economic downturn, we’d have to cut funding for our schools.”
“Better maintenance of existing highways and bridges is a high priority, yet this proposal would put education funding at risk and shortchange maintenance,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, vice chairwoman of the committee. “Folks in my corner of Colorado know that crumbling roads are the biggest transportation problem we have, and this bill would cut funding for maintenance.”
The Transportation & Energy Committee defeated the bill on an 8-5 party-line vote.