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Transportation Bait and Switch

Last month Commissioner Bell wrote an excellent summary on several of the key pieces of legislation from the 2021 General Assembly that will negatively impact our pocketbooks.

One of those was the so-called Transportation Bill, Senate Bill 260. This bill is a $3.8 billion boondoggle of fee/tax increases in addition to more than $1.4 billion of general fund transfers over the next 10 years. Only a third of the new fees are scheduled to actually go to the State Highway Fund.

Make no mistake, these new fees/taxes will be coming from your pockets without your permission as required in our Constitution. They will be called Retail Delivery Fees, Per Ride Fees, EV Registration Fees, Equalization Fees, Commercial EV fees, Road Usage Fees, Rental Car Fees, and Bridge and Tunnel Impact Fees. These “fees” will then fund four new enterprises which are created in order to do a cute little end run around the intent of the voters who passed Proposition 117 in 2020.

In addition to these new taxes, the bill repeals SB17-267 and thereby increases the TABOR Revenue Cap by nearly $225 million. SB17-267 lowered the cap (tax decrease) and 21-260 repeals that (tax increase). And again, all without the consent of you, the voter.

SB17-267, along with SB18-001, were meaningful bipartisan solutions which made long term investments in our roads and bridges. Both were repealed in SB260. Additionally, SB17-267 would have generated $2 billion explicitly for road projects in only four years with no new taxes.

In only two years, SB18-001 sent $501 million to the State Highway Fund outright, and with passage of a ballot measure that should have gone to the voters in 2019, the bipartisan bill could have generated $1.3 billion in transportation bonds, and transferred $79.5 million annually to the SHF. Even if voters had rejected the ballot measure, $50 million would still have been transferred to the SHF annually. It would have been your choice.

All of that was without a fee or tax increase and would have asked for taxpayer permission for bonding. But the legislature delayed the ballot measure in 2019, again in 2020, and then fully repealed it in 2021, passed the fee increases, and took away the ability of the taxpayer to weigh in on the matter.

And those measures they repealed were bipartisan pieces of legislation accomplished in a split legislature. And many of the legislators who voted for these bipartisan bills in 2017 and 2018, and campaigned on those votes for reelection in 2018, also later voted to repeal them with their yes vote on 21-260.

And that is the bait and switch. Bipartisan solutions without tax increases thrown aside in favor of unconstitutional “fee” increases which by a two-to-one margin fund pet projects, green initiatives, and multimodal/transit projects. None of these repair any roads, build any new lane miles, relieve any congestion, or benefit Fremont County and rural Colorado in any way.

The third of the projected revenue that is set aside for the State Highway Fund is ultimately less money than what was potentially available thru 17-267 and 18-001. Additionally, the new legislation allows the State Highway Fund to be used for multimodal projects, thereby reallocating even more money that would otherwise go to our roads.

When Coloradans realize that they are paying more for less and that they were not even allowed to vote on it as is their right, I sincerely hope they express their displeasure at the ballot box. I will.


By Kevin Grantham, Commissioner District 1