Fixing roads with your tax dollars: Bill could increase state’s sales tax

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A statewide transportation funding bill is moving through the legislature.

If it makes it to the ballot, it would ask voters to increase the state’s sales tax by .62 percent.

The bill would reduce vehicle registration fees and get rid of late fees, saving nearly $100 million for motorists.

As part of a 20-year funding plan to raise $13 billion, the bill would increase the state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent.

If approved by voters in November, it would go into effect in January 2018 and last until December 2037.

Mayor John Suthers, who opposes the bill, said if this bill is passed, people in Colorado Springs would be paying more than their fair share. He said the voter-approved 2C already brings in more funds than the proposed bill.

“The local tax generates $50 million, the state share would only produce $18, we’re not going to trade $50 million for $18 million,” Suthers said.

He also said local governments should deal with local transportation issues and the state government should be focused on dealing with the state highway problems.

If House Bill 1242 passes, it would raise about $680 million every year, with part of the revenue going to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“Right now we have money to repave things, to add passing lanes, to make intersection improvements, but we really don’t have any funds to make major capital improvement projects,” said Karen Rowe, Region 2 CDOT Transportation Director.

The bill would generate an estimated $300 million a year for new CDOT projects, which, according to Rowe, would go toward improvements on I-25 and widening parts of the highway, including the part between Monument and Castle Rock.

“We have had a lot of travel reliability issues and congestion issues and there’s always safety issues because of the speeds and congestion along that corridor,” said Rowe.

Rowe said they could also use the money for other projects, including building an interchange between Research Parkway and Powers Boulevard, Interstate 25 between South Academy Boulevard and Circle Drive, widening US-50 in Pueblo to the west, and improving roads through the downtown Pueblo area.

Suthers said the proposed tax is twice as high as it needs to be.

“I frankly think they’re trying to buy support from some Denver metro communities who have failed in their own local transportation initiatives,” said Suthers.

They’re initiatives Rowe said would include more than just highways.

“So right now we’re only getting enough to barely maintain the bridges and the pavement and do some minor safety improvements, and so we really need some sort of additional funds, whether it’s this bill or something else statewide,” said Rowe.

After the CDOT funding, the remaining amount of revenue would be split, with 70 percent going to cities and counties and 30 percent to a newly created, “multi-modal transportation options fund,” which includes public transit, biking and walking.

The bill now heads to a Senate vote.

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