Tax Hike-Free Road Fix Gets Early Green Light at the Statehouse
Senate Republicans today put the pedal to the metal on their top legislative priority of the session, moving a tax hike-free road fix through the Senate Transportation Committee on a 3 to 2, party-line vote.
Republicans believe a $1 billion-plus budget surplus makes this the year to finally put a long-term road fix before voters, minus the need for a tax hike. “This year, for the first time in recent memory, we have the additional funding we need to jump-start work on our massive road maintenance backlog, without the need to ask voters for a tax hike,” Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) asked in the wake of the vote. “There is enough surplus remaining to address other budget priorities as well, like education. There is simply no reason not to take action now.”
The 2018-2019 revenue stream will be more than $1 billion above current year spending, SB-1 co-sponsors Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) and John Cooke (R-Greeley) told the committee — over $747 million in additional General Fund revenue and over $256 million in new state income tax revenue resulting from federal tax reform. SB-1 would use between $300 and $350 million of that surplus to secure bonds totaling $3.5 billion in value, which will be paid off over 20 years with a 10 percent share of existing sales tax revenue. That will permit the state to green-light a number of high-priority projects already identified by the state.
“We have for years been hearing that adequately funding for Colorado’s roads is a bipartisan priority, yet when push came to shove, and it was time for the rubber to meet the road, it just seems like transportation always got the short end of the stick,” said Baumgardner. “This year we have the chance to make good on all those promises and put something politically viable in front of voters, with a reasonably good chance of success. Senate Bill-1 is the best chance we have had in a long time to actually make that happen.”
Cooke told the committee that a failure to act now could put at risk the economic gains Colorado has seen, relative to other states. “Without action now, the $9 billion road maintenance backlog will continue to grow, putting us even further behind the 8-ball,” said Cooke, “and we will see a continuing exodus of Coloradans who do not want to spend their lives sitting in traffic, or watch the quality of life across the state deteriorating.”
Senate Bill-1 next moves to the Finance Committee for consideration.
Please direct any media inquiries to Sean Paige at 719-337-0355