2021 Leg Session, Gold Dome, TABOR, Taxes, Transportation, Uncategorized

Rankin & Scott: Transportation funding scheme a false bill of goods

Democrats in the General Assembly have managed to give every explanation imaginable for why you have to pay more — during an economic crisis — for what should have been a top spending priority for Colorado lawmakers over the last decade. They’ve done a fine job at gaslighting the people of Colorado into believing that not only is there no other solution to funding our roads and bridges than Senate Bill 260, but that the shortage of funds we’re experiencing today is indeed your fault.

It’s not the only solution, and it is not your fault that our roads and bridges are failing.

For the last decade, Democrats in the legislature have fought tooth and nail to prevent general fund revenue from being put into fixing and enhancing our roads and bridges. Deadset on pet projects such as the creation of the “Office of the Future Work” and a $1 million study on how people can save money, Democrats have too many members with too many hobbies to properly prioritize roads and bridges.

But, Democrats realize they have to do something to save face with the voters. That’s why they’ve introduced SB 260, which will increase fees on gasoline, Amazon deliveries, Uber rides, and DoorDash meals for every Coloradan. Here are a few of the claims they’ve made about this boondoggle:

Claim: SB 260 abides by both the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and Proposition 117.

Facts: While this won’t be worked out until the bill passes and lawsuits are inevitably filed, it is obvious that Democrats have done everything within their power to avoid allowing taxpayers to have a say. That’s why they’re passing a “gas fee” instead of a “gas tax” increase. While they’re effectively the same, the term “fee” lets them pass it without putting it on the ballot. In addition, you may recall Proposition 117 being passed last election. This allowed Coloradans to vote on fees that generated over $100 million in five years that go into an “enterprise.” Democrats were able to stay under that $100 million cap by splitting up the new fees between four new enterprises (and one existing one).

Claim: We can’t spend federal stimulus funding on roads and bridges.

Facts: We have identified $1.5 billion in programs that currently are slated to be funded with general fund dollars that we could easily fund with these stimulus funds. That would then allow us to put $1.5 billion of general fund dollars into improving our roads and bridges immediately without raising a dime of taxes or fees.

Claim: There are no other solutions.

Facts: In 2018, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass Senate Bill 1. This would have put $2.7 billion, and consistent funding, into our roads and bridges and asked you – the voter – for permission to bond for a portion of that amount without raising taxes or fees. This bill passed 35 to 0 in the Senate, but Democrats have prevented it from going to the ballot and are now repealing it with their new bill. Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Colorado Springs, has also previously run legislation to ensure that our roads and bridges had a consistent funding stream without raising taxes or fees.

Claim: SB 260 is bipartisan.

Facts: There is only one Republican in the entire legislature that has voted for the bill. There is also a Democratic senator who voted against the bill. Instead of bringing both sides together to find a solution, SB 260 is one of the most partisan pieces of legislation we’ve seen this session.

Claim: SB 260 will solve our road and bridge problems.

Facts: Of the $3.8 billion that SB 260 will raise in fees over 10 years, only about $1.8 billion will go towards state road, bridge and tunnel projects. Much of the rest goes towards “climate justice” programs. While we’re also concerned about the environment and climate, we believe in being honest with the intentions of our legislation. The Department of Transportation has an approximate $10 billion backlog of projects that $2 billion (over 10 years) won’t begin to tackle.

Voters have made two things clear to politicians. First, they want the right to vote on taxes and fees. Second, they don’t want to pay more in taxes and fees for roads and bridges.

Democrats in the General Assembly have decided to ignore that, opting for passing what will be the largest tax (fee) increase in the last 30 years. We hope Colorado voters are watching closely.

Bob Rankin is a state senator from Carbondale. Ray Scott is a state senator from Grand Junction.

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