Capitol Conversation: Transportation Funding

Mar 26, 2018

For the second year in a row, Colorado lawmakers are working on a way to provide funding for the states roadways. In 2017 it was a proposed tax measure that failed. This time around it’s a bonding plan that would lock the state into annual payments coming from the general fund. This is where Democrats and Republicans disagree on the plan.

Changes were made in the Senate that could make its passage easier when it goes to the House for deliberation. Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland spoke with Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal and Marianne Goodland with Colorado Politics about the bill and the likelihood of its passage.

Interview Highlights

Overview of Senate Bill 1:

Sealover: The bill originally required the legislature to set aside 10 percent of its general fund sales tax revenues each year to go to transportation, largely to pay off bonds that would accrue to $250 million per year. The change just sets aside $250 million instead. It also pushed forward the bond to 2019. The aim of this is said amendment sponsor, Democrat Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada, is to let the Denver Chamber of Commerce run a sales tax measure first in 2018, if that passes we don’t have to bond at all Zenzinger says, if it doesn’t we’ll let them take it in 2019.  

Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal and Marianne Goodland with Colorado Politics discuss transportation funding.
Credit Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

The Politics Behind it:

Goodland: Democrats get very nervous about what happens if we have another recession and you see firms like Moody Analytics that says Colorado is way overdue for a recession and there isn’t enough money in reserves to cover even a moderate recession. So, it [SB 1] would push the state back into the situation that we were in, in 2010, which is they were having to pay back these bonds on previous transportation projects and having to cut in other areas. And the biggest cut of course was to K-12 education which is the Democrats’ No. 1 priority.

Likelihood of Passage:

Sealover: There is still no definitive signal that the House Democrats who have railed against the idea of bonding are going to jump behind this, but I think the likelihood is a lot better now because Gov. Hickenlooper asked for a $500 million one-time transfer of funds in next year’s budget. Democrats on the joint budget committee have agreed to that.

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.