Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Diane Schwenke said her biggest concern is if the measures fail and larger cities around the state decide to pass their own taxes to go toward roads in their jurisdictions.
Grand Junction Sentinel
Michael Lewis, who was appointed in November as the executive director of the state Department of Transportation, spoke remotely during the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly luncheon, providing an overview of the state’s road systems and outlining some possible solutions should potential initiatives make the November ballot and be approved by voters.
“We have the opportunity this fall to address the issue for the next 20 years,” said Lewis, who was slated to be at the luncheon in person until his flight was canceled earlier in the day. “It’s a great opportunity.”
The 45-minute presentation outlined the potentials for the “Fix Our Damn Roads” initiative and another that would increase sales tax across the state by 0.62 percent to pay for transportation. Backers of both measures are in the process of gathering signatures and must turn in enough by August to get on the ballot.
The “Fix Our Damn Roads” initiative would allow the state to increase its debt by $3.5 billion and pay for transportation projects out of the general fund. It is being led by the Independence Institute. Initiative 153, the sales tax, is led by a coalition of businesses. When asked why the effort is geared toward raising sales tax instead of the gas tax that already funds road projects, Lewis said the gas tax tends to poll poorly and more energy-efficient cars could make an increase less effective.
Lewis also discussed Senate Bill 1, which was recently signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper and commits $495 million in 2018 with a promise of an additional $150 million next year to road projects. It would also add a potential ballot measure for roads in 2019 should neither of the two initiatives pass in 2018.