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Opinion: Traffic will only get worse if voters approve Proposition 110

Are you stuck in traffic?

You did not create this mess. Our elected leaders did. And if you vote in favor of Proposition 110, it’ll just get worse.

Explosive population growth is the biggest threat to Colorado’s quality of life, and to Colorado’s wild landscapes and rivers. Supporting Proposition 110 will just fuel and subsidize the growth that is consuming our state.

One of the central tenets of how local and state government should address population growth is that growth should pay its own way, and not be subsidized by current residents or lured and promoted by financial incentives.

Gary Wockner

Unfortunately, governments in Colorado at the city, county, and state level have almost exclusively done the exact opposite — they lure more people, houses, and businesses without charging what’s called “impact fees” on the new growth.

And then afterwards, they add insult to injury by proposing to raise sales taxes on everyone to make up for the failed planning and mistakes.

Proposition 110 proposes to raise billions of dollars in a statewide sales tax levied against every person in Colorado. It will tax your food, your clothing, and your shelter, and then take your money to mostly build bigger and wider roads to allow for even more cars and more growth in the future.

City and county governments are chomping at the bit to get the hundreds of millions of dollars of your tax dollars that Proposition 110 would give to many of the larger urban areas in the state.

This sales tax “bail-out” would make up for their lack of fiscal responsibility in the past, and would encourage more of the same bad financial behavior in the future.

The state government — led by the legislature and Gov. John Hickenlooper — is also hoping you’ll support this bail-out because it will help hide their failure to represent the actual people of Colorado instead of the growth industry that controls the state.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Growth is an addiction, and irresponsible financial and planning policies are what feed that addiction. Instead of another sales-tax drug fix, our elected leaders need to be sent a strong message from the people of Colorado — the voters — that we won’t tolerate the bad behavior.

Voting “no” on Proposition 110 will send that message loud and strong. After they get the message, they need to create new responsible policies that protect Coloradans and Colorado’s landscapes.

First, new growth should be charged impact fees. Each new house should pay a fee, and each new car should pay a fee, and the money should be used at the local and state level to cover the costs — to roads, infrastructure, and other essential services — that are caused by the new growth.

Second, traffic congestion is the biggest problem, and taxes on traffic should be levied. Gas taxes and/or so-called “VMT” taxes (Vehicle Miles Traveled) — which impact the people who drive the most — are a responsible alternative to sales taxes on everybody.

A lot of liberal friends and colleagues of mine support Proposition 110. They say things like, “It’s the best we can do,” or “This is our best chance to do something about the problem,” or the old saying, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

I respect them all, and we will remain friends, but Proposition 110 is not our best chance, and it’s not even good, let alone perfect. I don’t blame them for supporting 110, especially my friends who are elected officials.

As an environmental activist and former registered environmental lobbyist at the state Capitol, I know very well how powerful the growth industry is. Fueled by vast amounts of money and the power it buys, the various chambers of commerce and the real estate industry control everything that goes on at the state Capitol, and control many of the city and county elected officials in the state. In that corrupt quagmire, good people are often forced into bad choices.

And that’s exactly why the people of Colorado — as voters — need to stand up in this election. Raising taxes to build more and wider roads will never fix the problem.

Are you stuck in traffic? Vote “no” on Proposition 110 and the explosive population growth it would fuel that make those traffic jams worse.

Gary Wockner, Ph.D., is an environmental activist based in Fort Collins