Republicans Followed a Long and Winding Road to Success
LOVELAND – It was a long uphill climb to get there, literally and figuratively, but none of the Senate Republicans who gathered in Loveland Thursday, to see their highest priority bill of the 2018 session signed into law, were complaining about it. Senate Bill-1 will put a tax hike-free road fix before voters next year, if they fail to approve several other road-related proposals expected to be on the ballot this fall.
Attending the ceremony on behalf of the caucus were President Kevin J. Grantham (R-Canon City), Majority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker) and Senators John Cooke (R-Greeley) and Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs).
President Grantham said he knew he was taking a big chance by making such an ambitious proposal the top caucus priority for the 2018 session. As the first bill introduced, he knew it would be a tempting target for Democrats in both the House and Senate, who for years deliberately starved roads of adequate funding and played political games with the issue, in the hopes of making a much-coveted tax hike part of any “deal.” But the urgent need to tackle the state’s large and growing road maintenance backlog, along with the frustration average Coloradans were feeling over lack of action on the issue, made he issue too important to ignore, said Grantham, despite the seemingly long odds of success.
“Coloradans for years have been crying out for lawmakers to finally do something meaningful about fixing our chronically-underfunded roads, so Senate Republicans weren’t in good conscience going to simply sidestep the issue this session, just because we knew Democrats would try slowing forward progress with the usual speed bumps and detours,” said Grantham, after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed SB-1 into law. “So we persevered and kept slugging and held our ground on opposition to tax hikes and this imperfect but still important measure is the result.”
Grantham and his Republican colleagues don’t believe Coloradans are in the mood to approve a road-related tax hike, given that the state already is spending record amounts of money and that this year brought a surprise revenue surplus of roughly $1.3 billion.
“Senate Republicans took the position that we can and should use existing funds to tackle Colorado’s road maintenance backlog, resisting relentless Democrat pressure to tie any such ‘deal’ to tax hikes, but enough Democrats eventually came to see the logic of our position that we could get this across the finish line,” explained Grantham. “This isn’t a perfect solution, or the bill we would have written if we had total control of the Statehouse, but it has good chance of winning voter approval and will commit a sizable stream of future general fund revenue toward road modernization, without the need to raise taxes. We count that as a major accomplishment, given that the odds seemed stacked against success when we started down this road back in January.”