Legislature Fails to Find Funding Fix for Roads

Colorado’s population is rapidly growing, our transportation system is rapidly becoming overcrowded, and alternative modes of transportation, like transit, walking, and biking, lack a permanent source of funding in the state government. Current road and highway infrastructure needs exceed $9 billion. However, the need for pedestrian, bike and transit infrastructure is great as well. An August 2016 study concluded that there is a need for an investment of $1 billion a year over the next 25 years to ensure that Coloradans have good access to adequate sidewalks, safe bicycle infrastructure and good transit services.

To address this significant problem, a bipartisan legislative team introduced HB17-1242 during the 2017 legislative to help bridge the gap and modernize the way Colorado funds its transportation system.

The bill would have done the following:

  • Referred a measure to the 2017 ballot increasing the state sales tax from 2.9% to 3.4% for 20 years to generate revenue for transportation improvements at the state and local government level. This would have generated $576 million a year.
  • Directed the state legislature to transfer $100 million annually from the General Fund to CDOT for bond debt repayment.
  • Eliminated the state share of the FASTER Road Safety Surcharge for passenger vehicles 10,000 lbs. or less, saving consumers roughly $80.5 million annually.
  • Eliminated the FASTER late vehicle registration fees that is anticipated to save Coloradans an additional $20.7 million per year.
  • 15% of the newly generated funds would go to a new multi-modal transportation options grant fund to be administered by CDOT and would be eligible for matching grants for various uses, including transportation projects that facilitate the ability for our seniors to access “age in place” by expanding their access to transportation options, safe routes to schools, bus and rail, and “first mile, last mile” related projects that allow for expanded access to existing transit options. Within this fund, not more than 75% of the revenues are allocated to the transportation options account, and at least 25% to the pedestrian and active transportation account, which is for non-motorized use including paths, sidewalks, and roadways for non-motorized equipment. Revenue to this new fund would be approximately $86.5 million in the first full year.

Due to concerns from conservative members of the state senate that the tax increases would have placed to great a burden on some Colorado communities, the bill unfortunately died in the Senate Finance Committee. Given that the state legislature remains unchanged in its makeup during the 2018 legislative session, we do not anticipate the legislature to take up this issue again. Instead, a bipartisan coalition has already filed for a ballot title in the 2018 election that would put the proposed funding changes from HB17-1242 to a vote of the people.