Garfield County commissioners decline to endorse state highway funding question

Alex Zorn

Timelapse photo of vehicle taillights and headlights on a mountain highway
Photo by Lionello DelPiccolo on Unsplash

Garfield County commissioners on Monday discussed supporting Proposition 110, a state ballot question proposing new sales taxes to pay for up to $6 billion in Colorado road improvements, but they couldn’t bring themselves to do it.

While each commissioner spoke in favor of rebuilding and paving the state’s highways, Commissioners Mike Samson, Tom Jankovsky and John Martin, respectively, voted in favor, abstained and voted against a resolution in support of the ballot proposal.

The latter two commissioners cited ever-increasing taxes as the reason they can’t support it, at least as a governing body.

“Personally I’m going to vote for this, and I don’t vote for taxes very often,” Jankovsky explained.

However, he added that he was abstaining from the vote, as he did on the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority question, but personally he will vote in favor as an individual voter.

Proposition 110, on the Nov. 6 mail ballot to be sent out next week, asks voters to support a measure to increase the state sales tax by 0.62 percent — about 6 cents on a $10 purchase — and authorize bonding over 20 years for statewide highway and transportation projects.

“If you want nice roads you will have pay for them, and I don’t know how that will happen if you don’t pay taxes for it,” Commissioner Samson said.

He said that among the different proposals statewide, this one is the best fit.

Garfield County and its communities are expected to receive over $80.1 million in state transportation funding for local projects over the next 20 years if the measure passes, according to information presented to the commissioners.

Commissioner Martin said he doesn’t like new taxes and thinks taxpayers pay too many of them already.

“I’d love to see it succeed, but it scares me,” he added, before voting against supporting the measure.

Each of the commissioners went on to voice their concerns about this year’s ballot, as voters both locally and statewide will be asked several tax questions regarding education, transportation and more.

Jankovsky’s opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Paula Stepp, said that Garfield County voters have a lot of important mill levy questions on the ballot this year pertaining to education, transportation and safety. She said her priority is to see those questions passed. Looking at where Colorado is with its roads, she said she would support Proposition 110.

If the measure were to pass, Stepp said she would like to see the budget readjusted due to the additional millions that would be added for transportation projects.

A second highway funding question on the statewide ballot, Proposition 109, seeks bonding authority to borrow up to $3.5 billion to fund up to 66 specific highway projects across the state using existing revenue sources.

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