Capitol Conversation: Challenges Facing Transportation Bill

Mar 27, 2017

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.  

Capitol reporter Bente Birkeland spoke with Denver Post reporter Brian Eason and Peter Marcus with ColoradoPolitics.com 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.