ColoradoPolitics

“As they say, if this were easy… The reality is that we have ignored infrastructure for too long. For years, infrastructure advocates have been squeezed out of the budget in favor of other priorities. The issue has now become dire. Our lack of infrastructure is costing money, putting safety at risk, and will eventually stifle our economy.”

Think of Tony Milo as Colorado’s Lorax. Only, instead of speaking for the trees like the fabled Dr. Seuss character, Milo advocates relentlessly for the state’s infrastructure.

As executive director of the Colorado Contractors Association, he is the point man in the perennial push for more funding to highways, bridges and other wide-ranging public works. And almost since taking the helm at the association in 2005, Milo has been forewarning policy makers of the long-term consequences of letting backlogged upgrades to our transportation grid languish on the drawing board.

The transportation-funding compromise hammered out by lawmakers in the closing days of the 2018 legislature is a good start in chipping away at that backlog, Milo tells us in today’s Q&A. But it’s just that — a start — and he says much more far-reaching policy initiatives are needed to truly tackle transportation.

Read on…

by Colorado Politics

None of the Republicans in the state House supported it earlier in the day, but Senate Republicans collected a unanimous vote Thursday night to send a bill to the governor that will eventually put almost $3 billion into the state’s beleaguered transportation system.

Image of Denver and busy street with traffic leading to the city.

Senate Bill 1 puts $495 million into roads, bridges and alternative transportation this year, $150 million next year then allows the state to borrow $2.3 billion to be repaid over the next 20 years, tapping the state general fund for $122.6 million a year. Granted, only about $50 million a year is new money, with the rest coming from previous legislation and existing tax dollars that go to the state highway department.

But it sounds good to advocates to finally see a legislative commitment to quick cash and ongoing money to a state transportation system the Colorado Department of Transportation says is in need of $9 billion in the next decade and $20 billion over the next 20 years.

”While the funding provided to transportation is short of where we could have been, politics is the art of the possible,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, who represents Fix Colorado Roads, the coalition driving the funding discussion for years. “Since the beginning, we’ve advocated from that point of view. Today, Senate Bill 1 passed a split legislature and is what was possible this year.

“And for that, we are grateful.”

Negotiations haven’t been this fruitful in recent memory, however you add up the money.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, has been at the forefront of negotiations for the past two sessions, Last year, Republicans on a Senate committee killed House Bill 1242, which Grantham co-sponsored, that would have asked Colorado votes to pass a half-cent sales tax. The compromise was announced to reporters in his office on Monday, with House Speaker Crisanta Duran at his side.

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by Colorado Public Radio

After years of staying in their separate lanes, Colorado’s top lawmakers may have found a way to merge together on a big issue: how to pay for the state’s transportation and infrastructure needs.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Republican Sen. President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, announced a deal Monday that opens the door to asking voters for new transportation bonds. It would also allow for a surge of spending on transportation projects over the next two years.

“This is not what would be the ideal for either one of us,” said Grantham, nodding to Duran. “We are in a split legislature and sometimes that’s when we do our best work, when we have to look at the other side and come up with solutions that fall somewhere in between.”

Duran agreed the plan proved lawmakers could overcome political divisions.

“We are continuing to show through our actions that we can bring people together in Colorado and that we can get things done for the people of our state,” said Duran.

The plan includes $495 million for transportation projects this fiscal year and $150 million next fiscal year.

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“It is time to solve Colorado’s transportation crisis. For too long, the issue has been avoided or ignored, while our state has seen massive population growth. Due to our growth without action, we are seeing more traffic accidents, more congestion and growing costs to doing business in our state. That’s why we are writing you to urge you to pass Senate Bill 1 – the compromise transportation funding measure that passed the State Senate with a unanimous 35-0 vote.” from letter sent by two dozen business groups House and Senate leaders Tuesday

by Colorado Politics

With a week left in the legislative session, Colorado House Democrats are poised to introduce a major overhaul to a transportation bill that passed the state Senate unanimously more than a month ago.

The change is significant. Rather than asking for permission to borrow $3.5 billion and repay it with $250 million a year from the state budget, as the Senate agreed to, House Democrats want a pay-as-they-go proposal that doesn’t threaten money for education.

Democrats are concerned that locking in that amount of money to repay bonds each year would mean less money for schools and social services in an economic downturn.

“We felt that Senate Bill 1, as it currently is, is like buying a new house without getting a new job first and saving for it,” said Rep. Faith Winter, D-Thornton, chair of the House Transportation Committee. “We’re mortgaging our future.

“This (amendment) is a responsible way to show the voters in the state of Colorado and everyone else involved that we care about transportation.”

The Democrats’ amendment would use $495 million already set aside in this year’s budget, then pledge $166 million from the budget for each of the next five years. But lawmakers would not be bound by the agreement.

The state also wouldn’t borrow any money under the proposal.

Sandra Hagen Solin, a government relations strategist at law firm Kutak Rock who leads the statewide business coalition called Fix Our Roads, said the proposal means the state can’t invest in major projects such as widening interstates, which is a priority for those stuck in traffic jams on interstates 25 and 70.

“With growth in the economy this year, we’ve got the necessary funds to have an aggressive strategy for transportation,” she said.

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Move made after legislature fails to send funding measure to ballot

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce will pursue a ballot initiative next year to boost state transportation funding after the state legislature failed to send voters a measure to raise $3.5 billion for roads and transit this year.

“We ask everyone to help get this done,” president and CEO Kelly Brough told a crowd of more than 1,000 members gathered Wednesday for the chamber’s annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center.

Brough, in an interview after the announcement, said specifics are still being worked on with several other groups, but she hinted that the size and scope of the hard-fought but failed House Bill 1242 offers a starting point.

“We will wrestle with the question of how much revenue,” she said.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, sought to increase the statewide sales tax to 3.52 percent from 2.9 percent for 20 years to raise $3.5 billion for transportation funding.

But Senate conservatives, opposed in principle to tax increases and state spending priorities, contributed to the bill’s demise late in the session, ending what backers had hailed as a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats to address a critical need.

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MoveColorado would like to express its appreciation to Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham for his sponsorship of HB 17-1242.  His impassioned words prior to the final vote in the Senate Finance Committee were spot on.

“We do worry about the Balkanization of our state roads system. If Colorado Springs and then northern Colorado and other RTAs start passing their own [funding and development plans], there will be donut holes throughout the state that will be left out of improvements and will never get the improvements that are needed. Maybe that’s the preferred solution for some. It’s not for me… But that is the direction we are heading, and I think it’s a dangerous one…”

“I don’t know what would happen if it went to the people… But I know, without a doubt, that if it doesn’t get on the ballot, then it will definitely never pass. We only get so many bites at the apple — I’ve heard that a lot today — but if the number of bites we get is exactly zero, then zero is the result we will get.”

The session’s unloved grand bipartisan transportation measure, House Bill 1242, is dead, but the closing remarks — you might say the sickbed epitaph — delivered for the bill by Republican sponsor and Senate President Kevin Grantham are worth revisiting, especially given that, in the last week, and with a little more than a week left in the legislative session, three new transportation-related bills have been introduced.

Grantham spoke right before the bill was dispatched Tuesday by the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee, addressing the bill and its critics with words that might come to resonate beyond the committee hearing, even if in a ghostlike way, floating into remarks made years from now by lawmakers begging please for someone somehow to expand I-25 south of Castle Rock or to find a way to get their aged mother or father to the doctor in the middle of the day.

Grantham said running this year’s bill was a brave and bold move. He said the bill was unloved on the left and the right because drumming up billions for much-needed transportation upgrades in a politically and ideologically divided swing state was always going to be — and is long likely going to be — a slog.

He said people in the Capitol have to begin seeing transportation in new ways, and doing that is hard to do. He suggested that the long era of roads and more roads and single-occupancy privately owned vehicles no longer serves the population of the state the way it once did — and particularly the state’s younger and older populations — and that transit, meaning mass-transit, is popular with residents even if it’s unpopular with lawmakers.

Read on…

House Bill 1242 and Senate Bill 267, two top issues are on life support, their sponsors say

The Colorado legislative session’s top priority, a major transportation bill that seeks a tax hike to improve and expand highways, is unlikely to win approval this term.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican and one of the prime sponsors, announced Thursday morning that he does not have the votes to move it through the GOP-led chamber.

“At this point, we can’t count to three,” he said, describing the number of votes he needs to advance it through the Senate Finance Committee next week.

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NORTHGLENN, CO – APRIL 1: Cars drive northbound on I-25 with the new express toll lane, indicated by the double white line, on April 1, 2016, in Northglenn, Colorado. CDOT officially opened the I-25 North express toll lane on Monday. Construction is still underway on a concrete sound barrier wall that runs alongside the interstate. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post)

Republican State Senate President Kevin Grantham is a co-sponsor of the most significant transportation bill in Colorado for a number of years Senator Grantham gives a great overview of the bill as it enters the Colorado Senate for consideration after passing the Colorado House. Thank you to Senator Grantham and Senate Committee on Transportation Chair Randy Baumgartner for their leadership on this bill.

Here is the latest installment in the ongoing effort to keep you informed about critical issues here at Dome to Home. One of the most pressing issues is transportation funding as addressed in HB 17-1242. I wanted to give you the facts and rationale behind it and then you can decide for yourself whether you like this proposal or not.

As of right now the bill has passed the final vote in the House with bipartisan support and is on its way to the Senate Transportation committee. Several amendments were passed which goes to show that this bill is a work in progress and amendments mean opinions about solutions are being explored and accepted. I’m especially pleased with Representative Jon Becker’s amendment in Transportation committee to eliminate the FASTER vehicle registration late fees which is burdensome, especially to rural citizens. There was a lot of testimony on this bill and I’m very grateful for that and am looking forward to this discussion as the bill progresses.

About the bill itself, it is all about consent of the people, transparency, accountability, and deliberate, purposeful spending. This bill is not the end of the conversation but the beginning of a more difficult conversation with new ideas and many hard discussions. This bill is not perfect and has many things that both sides find disagreeable if not unacceptable. It is a work in progress and gives us a framework for discussion and the possibility of actually getting something through two diverse chambers, signed by the Governor, and approved ultimately by the voters of Colorado. We could have proposed a bill or series of bills that could swiftly pass the Senate and then promptly die in a House committee. That is easy. But if we actually want to see real change for your transportation needs, if we want to see something of substance done, then we have to do the difficult things, the tough things, to make a difference. That is why I have proposed this legislation which I believe is our best chance of success to solve the infrastructure and traffic issues seen and felt by each and every one of us.

So what is this bill? First and foremost this is a ballot question to be voted on by Coloradans. It’s important to me that the citizens of this state get a say not only on whether they will increase their taxes but also on where their money is being spent. It is important also that we remain constitutionally compliant in that we ask for your permission to do this. This proposal keeps faith with taxpayers by complying with both the letter and spirit of TABOR.

Read on...

Following eight months of negotiations, Colorado legislative leaders on Wednesday introduced a 20-year transportation-funding bill that would ask voters to approve a sales tax hike to generate some $677 million per year for highway and transit projects — without making significant cuts to existing state revenues.

Observers, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, quickly referred to House Bill 1242 as a starting point, saying they expect details about everything from the size of the tax hike, to the allocation of new revenues, to be up for debate in the two months that the Legislature has left in its 2017 session.

 

But House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, both expressed gratitude at finding a compromise they believe can muster support of their ideologically differing caucuses before they take their case to voters.

“We want to make sure that roads and bridges and transportation options across the state are adequately funded for generations to come,” Duran said in an interview with multiple news outlets shortly after introducing the bill just past 5 p.m.

She will co-sponsor HB 1242 in her chamber along with Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, the Steamboat Springs Democrat who chairs the House Transportation and Energy Committee that will hear the proposal first.

Read on…

Shaun Egan

“When we speak about our state’s transportation needs, policymakers usually mention the additional time and cost to travelers and business. While these statistics demonstrate a critical need for additional investment in our transportation infrastructure, they fail to capture the highest cost of our inaction, which is the loss of life or serious injuries to people on our highways. While being late for work or delayed while traveling to ski is annoying, they pale in comparison to a loved one not coming home.”

Greeley Tribune
January 19th

The high price of inaction on our infrastructure is 599. That is the number of people who died on Colorado’s roadways in 2016.

Highway fatalities and how they grew in number in the past year were part of a broad-based advertising campaign by the Colorado Department of Transportation to make the public aware of the human toll associated with highway accidents and the importance of safe driving practices.

While this campaign may have been effective in getting our attention, the number of fatalities and injuries on our highways unfortunately rose. In fact, highway fatalities in 2016 were at their highest level since 2005 and have risen by over 34 percent since 2011.

What is the cause of this increase? Many would point rightfully to distracted driving, driving under the influence, and speeding as leading causes of highway fatalities. In looking at those factors, many view the rise in highway fatalities as an enforcement issue. One other important consideration, though that rarely gets mentioned, is how our state’s lack of investment in our transportation system may be contributing to this increase.

Read on…

Shaun Egan is the President and CEO of Iron Woman Construction, which is company that is involved in transporting construction materials and environmental consulting. Egan also serves as the vice chairman of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which represents over 600 companies involved in trucking in Colorado.