“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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