The Jefferson County Business Lobby and the Arvada Chamber of Commerce have made ending the state’s transportation funding crisis one of our top priorities in the Colorado Legislature for 2017. With this legislative session half over, major progress toward that goal was made recently with the introduction of a large, bi-partisan funding plan.
The plan (HB17-1242) – which the JCBL is supporting – is centered on a 20-year increase in the state sales tax (from 2.9% to 3.52%). A portion of that new revenue would be used to service $3.5 billion in bonds to immediately address the state’s most pressing transportation needs. But roughly $300 million in revenue from the sales tax increase would go to local governments and transit projects annually.
In order to garner Republican support of a tax increase, however, the bill also requires the state general fund to pay for the first $50 million in annual bond payments, something the Democrats have traditionally resisted. And the bill also cuts registration fees by $75 million to help offset some of the sales tax hike.
While the compromise is the result of many months of negotiations between
the two parties – each of whom control a chamber in the legislature – this is far from a done deal. Most importantly, the plan must be approved by the voters in the November, 2017, election, and Colorado voters have a long history of defeating tax increases.
But before it can even get to the voters this Fall, it must survive the legislative process, where opponents on both the left and right are emerging. Some conservatives oppose a tax increase for transportation – at least one that is not fully offset by tax or spending cuts elsewhere. Meanwhile, some transit advocates aren’t pleased with the amount of new funding that is dedicated to transit and mobility projects.
Labeled “work in progress” on the day of its introduction, HB1242 will likely see changes before it is referred to voters for approval. The JCBL believes, however, that this bill represents the best chance in a at least a decade to make real progress on fixing Colorado’s increasingly congested and deteriorating road and highway system.
In other legislative news, three bills supported by the JCBL advanced in committee after testimony from JCBL witnesses, including a key construction litigation reform bill (SB156), an extension of an economic development tax credit for advanced industries (HB1090) and an extension of a tax credit for child care expenses which helps working families stay in the workforce (HB1002).
Please go to www.jeffcobusinesslobby.org to see all of the bills the JCBL is lobbying at the Colorado State Capitol and to sign up for news updates on bills important to the Jefferson County business community.
Jeff Weist can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org