Colorado lawmakers strike deal on transportation funding
The Associated Press
Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham and Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran announced the deal two days before the 2018 legislative session ends.
Overall, the deal would commit the state to spend $645 million over the next two years on transportation projects, then an additional $1 billion over the next 20 years. If voters agree to issue the bonds, it would also repeal portions of last session’s transportation spending compromise to help pay off up to $3.25 billion in borrowing costs.
Most of the money would be earmarked for state highway projects, with 15 percent going to alternate forms of transportation, such as mass transit or bike lanes.
The deal represents far less than the $5 billion Republicans had sought to spend on borrowing. House Democrats argued that committing that much to transportation bonds would require cuts to education during the next economic downturn.
Both Grantham and Duran said they were pleased with the compromise, which still has to pass both chambers by Wednesday to become law.
“It shows that this is a priority,” Grantham said.
Both sides also emphasized that more money is needed. The state faces $9 billion in transportation needs over the next decade, while its main revenue source for roads — the gas tax — continues to lose value to inflation and fuel efficiency.
“It’s not enough and that’s why we need to also see a ballot initiative pass,” Duran said.
Business groups have been considering sending voters a ballot measure in November to raise taxes for roads, which Democrats support.
The Independence Institute, a conservative group, is pushing a competing measure of its own to boost transportation funding within the existing budget.