The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been leading a coalition of business interests across the state over the past few months in hopes of getting a measure on the November ballot to help fund projects to improve roads statewide.
It’s a worthwhile, nonpartisan effort that merits the widest support possible despite a $495 million transportation bill that is expected to pass as part of the latest version of the state budget.
Why? Because state budgets change year to year, growing and shrinking depending on the economy, and are continually subject to partisan priorities.
That makes them uncertain mechanisms to address what is an unbending fact of life in Colorado: roads that will continue to be overburdened and crumble without proper and adequate care.
After having filed four earlier proposed ballot measures, the coalition late last month filed a fifth option that would increase the state sales tax 0.35 percent. The coalition’s plan all along was to move forward with the option that ensures it is asking voters for only what is absolutely necessary to address the state’s most critical transportation needs. Of the five versions submitted, the fifth one is definitely the winner.
The money to improve roads would be divided among cities (which would receive 40 percent of the dollars), counties (40 percent) and multimodal projects (20 percent) – raising $432 million in the first year. It would also bond up to $3.7 billion for state highway projects, relying on funds dedicated by the Legislature.
Chamber President Kelly Brough notes it’s been almost 25 years since our state has received an increase in tax revenue to improve roads. “During that same period, Colorado’s population has grown by almost 2 million people and technology is delivering mobility solutions that we aren’t able to take advantage of,” Brough said in a blog post.
“Our failure to invest is costing us real money,” she continued. “Colorado drivers are, on average, paying more than $1,600 a year because of traffic congestion delays, damage to vehicles, accidents and lost gas efficiency. Those costs really add up — in total, Coloradans are paying $6.8 billion annually due to the poor condition of our transportation system.”
We’re all tired of being stuck in traffic. A state budget surplus this year, it’s feared, will prompt some to put off a transportation ballot measure for another time. But this particular can has been kicked down the road for too long. A fixed tax amounting to less than a half-penny is a small price to pay for roads that ensure our economic well-being isn’t interrupted by our own neglect.
Scott Kennedy, president and COO of CCIG, has more than 30 years of insurance and risk management experience.
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