Update on Funding for Transportation

Jun 12, 2018 | Uncategorized

With the end of the state legislative session a month ago, I’m still struggling to positively characterize what happened with transportation funding.

In a show of how important transportation was to legislators, the very first bill introduced during the session was Senate Bill 18-001 (SB 1), aka the Fix Colorado Roads Act. It held great promise. With $1.3 billion of new, unencumbered revenue in the state budget, the Legislature had the opportunity to put transportation back in the budget in a significant way. That meant $495 million for 2018-19 and $250 million ongoing. Then to jumpstart construction, the original bill advocated for referring a $3.5 billion transportation bonding program to voters.

A deal by legislative leaders at the end of the session cut this back considerably with $645 million over two years, but the money split between state, cities, counties, and transit and then the ongoing General Fund commitment would be $20 million per year. The bonding program was cut back to $2.3 billion but won’t go to the ballot until 2019.

Our analysis of SB 1 in terms of its impact on North I-25 is that no new money comes to North I-25. SB 1 does eliminate an old funding mechanism passed in 2017 called SB 267, but does retain the $200 million from that source previously committed to North I-25. That’s not a guarantee now due to not receiving a matching federal grant so the issue will be taken up by the Colorado Transportation Commission next week.

In summary, SB 1 provided key policy aspects we supported – ongoing monies from the General Fund and bonding – but at such diminished levels to make it generally meaningless.

Now attention turns to two proposed transportation ballot measures. Proponents of both are currently in the field collecting signatures to petition them onto the fall ballot.

The first is called “Fix Our Damn Roads.” It is being proposed by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute. It sounds a lot like what we were hoping to get out of SB 1: $250 million ongoing from the General Fund to service bonds of $3.5 billion and it requires the bonds to be issued.  It would force the Legislature to reprioritize its budget. There would not be a tax increase.

The other measure is a proposed .62 state sales tax. It would generate an annual revenue of $1 billion and would allocate 45 percent to CDOT, 20 percent each to cities and counties and 15 percent to transit. It also includes about $8 billion for bonding but does not require the bonds be issued.

It is not clear at this time if either issue will benefit North I-25.

The Chamber and its partners through the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance continue to evaluate the two proposed ballot measures. We are inclined to preliminarily support both at this stage to encourage the groups to continue signature collection. In the meantime, we will evaluate and ask proponents how the measures will benefit North I-25.