Colorado Reporters Talk About Challenges Facing Transportation Bill

A proposal to get more money for Colorado’s aging and congested transportation system is on its legislative journey. The bipartisan bill, a top priority for legislative leaders and the governor, would send the question of a sales tax increase to voters and allow the state to borrow $3.5 billion for roads and infrastructure. The first committee hearing lasted about seven hours.

Brian Eason, a reporter for The Denver Post, and Peter Marcus with, spoke with Bente Birkeland about the measure.

On what stood out during the lengthy committee hearing:

Eason: You had folks from cities, counties, rural, urban areas, business groups, small businesses, ski resorts, environmental groups — just the sheer amount of interest in this topic was kind of overwhelming. One thing that was interesting was there was not a lot of organized conservative opposition at this here. We kind of heard quite a bit going to into this about — there’s going to be a lot of pushback against any form of tax increase to pay for this proposal.

Marcus: The fights will continue, though. The biggest issue is just how much money CDOT [Colorado Department of Transportation] is going to get. They already upped it from $300 million to $375 million but some folks don’t feel like it should be a set number. They feel it should be a percentage of the sales tax increase, or of the revenue — because over two decades a set financial figure may not hold steady as well as a percentage would.

On the political dynamic at play — especially for the GOP:

Eason: The biggest thing is getting the bill to a place where Republicans feel it matches their priorities. So a lot of these rural communities, transit is not a big priority for them, so seeing a lot of money go towards that, is going to be a tough sell for a lot of them.

Marcus: I’m not sure this is going to be the end-all-be-all bill either. There are other supplemental funding type legislation out there addressing budget issues. There is also a competing ballot initiative that has been proposed to address transportation with existing revenue, not involving a tax increase.

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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