Capitol Conversation: Transportation Proposals Shift Funding Debate To Voters

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Originally published on February 26, 2018 11:01 am

Lawmakers inside the capitol are grappling with how to put more money into transportation, a priority for both parties. Now, the issue will be debated statewide because of a group of statewide ballot proposals. Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland talked to Brian Eason with the Denver Post and Marianne Goodland with Colorado Politics about the chances of passage – and what it means for the current legislative session.

On the four transportation ballot initiatives and what they would do:

Eason: They would raise sales taxes between half a cent and a full penny on the dollar. The money would be split between some transportation bonds that would go towards major projects around the state. Then there’s also some money for local and regional road and transit projects.

On what the initiatives mean for the overall discussion on funding roads at the state capitol:

Goodland: I think in introducing these ballot measures the conversation really shifts out of the state capitol where it’s really pretty unlikely that we’re going to see something come out of here this session that addresses this issue. 

On the pros and cons of the initiatives:

Eason: The supporters want this because they just don’t think there’s enough money in the budget to address all the needs. I mean, CDOT estimates we have $9 billion in unmet needs over the next decade. That’s a lot of money. We don’t have that much now to deal with that. The Republican plan to bond off of existing revenue doesn’t get us that far. Democrats don’t even like the money that the Republicans do want to put up because they think some of that money should be going towards schools and housing and other priorities. 

The cons -- sales taxes don’t poll very well in the state. There’s concern that voters don’t even want this and if voters don’t want it, the onus is on lawmakers to do something. I do think lawmakers will put together some transportation funding this session, but it may not be the big omnibus package that people are hoping for.

Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

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