Friday, September 14, 2018

Let's Go, Colorado

Picture yourself in 1991. I was an eight year old kid who loved baseball and riding my bike. When I wasn't doing one of those activities, I was playing on our swing set, bouncing on the neighbors trampoline, or climbing the huge boulder that had been placed in the front yard of our Savage, Minnesota home. That is, I did those activities around our Savage, Minnesota home until my family uprooted from our suburban Twin Cities abode for a new adventure out west. My dad's company transferred him to work on their largest project at the time - the construction of a new airport in Denver, Colorado. After the completion of my second grade year at St. John the Baptist Catholic School, the moving trucks came and loaded the house. We piled into the wood-sided Oldsmobile station wagon, hooked up the pop-up camper, and headed out to a new apartment in a new state while our new house was constructed in a new town by a new school where I would make new friends and start my new Colorado life.
Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly
The year 1991 was also big for the entire state of Colorado and not just because of the increased number of Flicks residing within its boundaries. It was during that year that the State last changed funding sources for transportation - through an increase in the state gas tax from $0.20 per gallon to $0.22 per gallon. The following year, Colorado implemented the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (or TABOR), prohibiting any tax increase without public vote.

In the twenty-seven years following the two cent increase in gas tax, Colorado has not added a funding stream for transportation in the state. In that same period of time, population in the state has nearly doubled (census data shows a population of nearly 3.3 million in 1990 compared to nearly 5.7 million in 2017). Average fuel economy has seen drastic growth in the last decade. Electric and hybrid vehicles add vehicle miles traveled to our roadway networks with little to no financial input to the system. Add in the lack of adjustments to the gas tax to keep up with inflation and we are seeing more vehicles driving more miles with less capital to improve the infrastructure at the same rate.

The result is the mess that we get the pleasure of experiencing on a daily basis. Poorly maintained roadway surfaces. Bumper-to-bumper traffic. A system of highway bridges with failing ratings. Incomplete transit systems. Transportation in this state is struggling.

This November, Colorado voters will have two separate (and different) ways to fix the transportation issues we face in our beautiful state. And I have a very strong opinion about which option is better.

Proposition 109 - Fix Our Damn Roads

The first is Proposition 109, which reallocates money from the general fund to pay for $3.5 billion in transportation infrastructure. One hundred percent of the funds would be applied to state highways. The funds would not be available for transit or local agencies. The proposition replaces $1.5 billion in existing state funding for CDOT so the $3.5 billion "increase" actually amounts to a $2 billion increase in state transportation funding. And this is not a new funding source. It is taking money from the general fund to pay for transportation, thus diverting funds from the state budget over the next 20 years to pay back the bonds. This proposition is a shell game - moving money from one pile to another. While it will help the transportation industry in the state, other facets of the state government will suffer as a result.

Proposition 110 - Let's Go, Colorado

The second transportation initiative on the ballot is Proposition 110. Proposition 110 is a 0.62% increase in sales tax for the entire state. The sales tax would sunset in 20 years. Unlike Proposition 109, the funds generated from this tax would be distributed to agencies around the state for diverse transportation infrastructure improvements. The allocation of dollars will be as follows:
Courtesy of
The sales tax is estimated to raise an additional $7 billion for highway projects around the state, while maintaining the $1.5 billion currently budgeted from the general fund. An additional $8 billion would be raised for city and county transportation projects and an additional $3 billion would be raised for transit/bicycle/pedestrian projects. In the first year alone, the state anticipates a $787 million increase in transportation funding statewide.

If my biased typing did not come through clearly enough - Proposition 110 is the better option for Colorado's transportation system. Proposition 110 will provide aid to a deteriorating and vital piece of our state - the transportation system that allows the movement of people and goods. The benefit of Proposition 110 (over Proposition 109) is not WHAT the money is doing, but HOW the money is raised.
  • The proposition introduces a new funding source and does not siphon money from away from other parts of the state budget. 
  • The new funding source is a sales tax. 
    • Meaning the tax will be skewed toward those who purchase more things.
      • Meaning it will generally have a greater impact to people with higher incomes.
  • The sales tax will gather money from the tourists who visit our state each year. The Colorado Tourism Office reported that over 86 million people visited our fine state in 2017. Each of those visitors add strain to the already tired infrastructure system. The money spent by those 86 million extra people as they visit Colorado will help offset the wear and tear that they place upon our infrastructure. 
  • The sales tax will collect from the users of the system who do not pay the $0.22 per gallon gas tax due to driving an electric car and from the users of the system who pay reduced gas tax on their fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. 
I would encourage those of you who reside in Colorado to take a good look at what these propositions do for our great state. Find information about Proposition 110 at their website. Hopefully you agree that a change is needed and you join me in voting for Proposition 110. 

Colorado looks nothing like it did in 1991. It is time for our transportation funding to be able to say the same thing. 
Courtesy of

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