A bipartisan statewide coalition of business leaders, mayors and transportation advocates announced Friday it will gather signatures to place a 0.62 percent sales tax increase to invest in Colorado’s transportation system on the November ballot.
“This coalition has been working together for years to secure badly needed funding for transportation. And after another legislative session that failed to meaningfully address the issue, it has become clear that the citizens of Colorado have no choice now but to take this issue into our own hands,” said Mike Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. “As a business community we never want to see taxes increased unless it is absolutely necessary. We are now convinced that it is absolutely necessary.”
Coalition members highlight the decades-long revenue shortage for transportation combined with population growth as driving the need for new revenue.
“Maintenance and construction for our state highways are funded by a gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in over 25 years,” said Tony Milo with the Colorado Contractors Association. “When you combine that with population growth, we are spending less per driver on our highways today than we were in the 1990s.”
According to state budget documents, the Colorado Department of Transportation currently has a $9 billion backlog of projects across the state. In addition to funding for state highways, a key component of the coalition’s plan would provide funding for local projects across the state as chosen by local communities, including alternative means of transit.
“It’s about time we make a serious investment in our transportation infrastructure. Our roads are literally crumbling beneath our feet,” said Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20, an association of counties on the Western Slope. “This initiative is a responsible and modest approach to provide an immediate solution before our infrastructure goes from bad to worse.”
“Coalition members said they decided on sales tax to provide the new revenue, in part, because tourists, conventions and other visitors to the state will help pay a significant part of the tax. Every year 80 million people visit Colorado and use our roads; this approach will allow them to leave a little something behind to help us out,” said Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Coalition members said they would begin circulating petitions immediately.
Quotes from key coalition partners from across the state follow:
Jackie Millet, Republican Mayor of Lone Tree:
“Our transportation crisis in Colorado extends from our state highways to local roads. This ballot initiative is a modest increase in the state sales tax, and it will do a lot to address the congestion caused by growth.”
Dan Gibbs, Democratic Summit County Commissioner:
“If we’re ever going to solve our transportation problems, we need to move away from the gas tax and make sure our communities have the resources they need to meet demand. This initiative will have a big impact on our mountain communities and rural Colorado by directing more resources where it really matters: improving our streets, highways and transit options so it’s easier and safer to get around.”
Cathy Shull, Executive Director of Pro 15:
“Our failing transportation infrastructure isn’t just a Denver problem, it’s a problem that affects every part of Colorado. This ballot initiative was developed by leaders from Fort Morgan to Grand Junction. This is a bipartisan solution that will repair and improve our infrastructure in a way that benefits every part of the state.”
Joe Kiely, Ports to Plains Alliance:
“Colorado’s economy directly depends on a reliable statewide transportation system. This ballot proposal addresses both local and regional problems across our state so that Colorado maintains its competitive edge.”
Cindy Dozier, Republican Hinsdale County Commissioners:
“Colorado has been underfunding transportation for decades because we’re using a funding source that just can’t keep up while the need continues to grow. Speaking as a rural county commissioner, I believe the only way we’ll be guaranteed that our local roads and highways will get the repairs they need is by going to the ballot and dedicating new revenue to this critical priority.”
Margaret Bowes, Executive Director of the I-70 Coalition:
“It is absolutely necessary we make a meaningful investment in our roads. Our failure to invest over the last 25 years is impacting our quality of life and costing us money in traffic congestion delays, traffic accidents and damage to vehicles, lost gas efficiencies and it’s only getting worse.”
Rachel Richards, Democratic Pitkin County Commissioner:
“We need a statewide transportation system that works for rural and urban Colorado. The state highways and local roads that connect our communities and support regional economies are in dire need of repair. This initiative goes a long way toward addressing those problems and provides the flexibility that local communities need to address their challenges