Both transportation ballot measures worth considering

Highways and interstates in Colorado are a problem. This is the consequence of too few resources. The state has an unfunded transportation project list of $9 billion and underspends on transportation by $1 billion annually. This fall we can do something about it.

Citizens have petitioned two transportation issues onto the ballot (pending final signature verification by the Secretary of State). Initiative 153, colloquially known as “Let’s Go, Colorado,” and Initiative 167, known as “Fix Our Damn Roads,” are the two proposals for voter consideration.


“Let’s Go, Colorado”

• Raises the state sales and use tax rate by .62 from 2.9 to 3.52 for 20 years

• Generates projected annual revenue of $1 billion (20-year average)

• Overall revenue allocation is 45 percent for CDOT for highways ($450 million), 20 percent counties ($200 million), 20 percent cities ($200 million), and 15 percent multi-modal ($150 million)

• CDOT allocation to go toward highway projects on CDOT’s Tier One Project list

• City and county allocations would flow through current Highway Users Trust Fund (HUTF) formula. Cities and counties have full flexibility of local expenditure of funds.

• Multi-modal allocation process established within CDOT for a multi-modal project list.

“Fix Our Damn Roads”

• Requires CDOT to issue $3.5 billion of transportation bonds

• Directs appropriation of state budget $250 million to service bonds, an obligation on state general fund not CDOT

• $3.5 billion Project List is delineated within proposal

• Replaces just over $1 billion of certificates of participation (COP) revenue for new net revenue to CDOT of $2.251 billion


“Let’s Go, Colorado”

• $7.14 billion in bonding capacity — Transportation Commission approved $6.5 billion in projects

• Additional revenue from anticipated growth in sales tax revenue of 20 years

• Significant new resources going toward state system

• Key leadership behind campaign

• Restores General Fund commitment to transportation

• Voters understand sales tax

• Tourists and other non-residents contribute to solution

• Funds are protected for transportation

“Fix Our Damn Roads”

• Requires CDOT issuance of $3.5 billion in bonds

• Project List delineated in ballot question with $653 million attached to North I-25 Project

• Restores General Fund commitment to transportation

• No tax increase

• Appears politically viable – 73 percent voter support


“Let’s Go, Colorado”

Proposed tax increase is big

• Large state sales tax diminishes local community taxing capacity

• CDOT is only authorized, not required, to issue bonds against revenue

• Full funding of North I-25, and other regional priorities, could be secured with a local Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) so passage of a .62 percent statewide hurts the region’s ability to pass an RTA to cover full future funding needs of entire corridor

• Lacks bi-partisan political leadership support — Gov. Hickenlooper has been silent, GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton has expressed opposition; Democrat gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis relatively silent

• Colorado Springs opposes

• Political viability in doubt: Fix Colorado Roads polling: 49 percent support

“Fix Our Damn Roads”:

• Requires $150 million General Fund commitment of dollars necessary to make annual bond payment i.e., no new revenue source to cover bonds

• No transit = opposition from transit supporters; does not recognize need of transit in many parts of the state

• Campaign has limited funds

Impact to North I-25

In the short term-between now and 2030, both proposals bring the same amount of funding to North I-25. After that, only “Let’s Go, Colorado” would generate enough funding to add a fourth lane.

Because of the deadline for this column and decision-making process of the chambers and economic development corporations in the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, I can only report on the basics and the pros and cons. But both plans benefit transportation in the state and North I-25 over doing nothing.

David May is CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.