Photo by Will Porada / Unsplash

From January through mid-May, Republican members of the Colorado General Assembly make the weekly trek, such as it is, from their hometowns into Denver. Traveling over mountain passes, long stretches of country roads and lonely interstate, burgeoning sprawl north and south of Denver, we agree – Colorado’s roads need to be a priority.

Indeed, as the only party in the legislature whose membership isn’t dominated by those who live in the nine-county Denver metro area, we understand better than most how bad things are. Further, we believe that a core function of government is to keep our roads safe and accessible.

Top row: Reps. Hugh McKean and Tim Geitner. Bottom row: Reps. Janice Rich and Rod Pelton.

Even our Denver colleagues recognize there’s an issue and have put forward their transportation solution: Senate Bill 260, a 207-page policy behemoth.

SB 260 comes with a $5 billion (that’s with a ‘B’) price tag and includes taxpayer-funded subsidies for drivers of electric vehicles, public transportation projects, and untold marketing to attract riders.

And what government-led solution doesn’t include a new bureaucracy? This one has four: A Community Access Enterprise, a Clean Fleet Enterprise, a Clean Transit Enterprise, and a Nonattainment Area Air Pollution Mitigation Enterprise.

But wait, there’s more. Not to be outdone by the Biden administration, SB 260 includes in its concept of “infrastructure” funding for projects that mitigate greenhouse gases, like improving insulation and adding new windows to government buildings, the preponderance of which are in Denver.

To pay for it, the sponsors are willing to commit about a tenth ($500 million) of the proposed cost in General Fund dollars to SB 260 – that’s money taxpayers have already paid into the system. 

The remaining $4.5 billion balance would be paid for by those same taxpayers through new fees – gasoline and diesel fees, DMV fees, fees on retail deliveries, fees on passenger ride services, and fees on short-term vehicle rentals. And those four enterprises can increase those fees over time, against the will of Coloradans.

By increasing fees on gasoline and diesel alone, it will cost more to get goods to market from those 55 counties that aren’t in and around Denver. Increased fees will inevitably lead to increased cost of living for everyone across the state. 

The bill is titled, “Sustainability Of The Transportation System,” but it’s hard to see how this is “sustainable.” Especially following the economic devastation of COVID-19.

Noteworthy, in this context, since 2011, Colorado’s population has increased almost 13%. Yet the amount Colorado taxpayers have contributed to the state’s General Fund increased 51% – almost four times more than the increase in population. In those nine years, the Democrat-run legislature has done precious little to address Colorado’s roads and bridges – a basic responsibility of government.

Further, since many of the roads and bridges that receive state funding lie outside of the Denver metro area, we’d like to be part of the solution to ensure our roads remain safe and accessible – no matter where you live or are traveling in Colorado.

For a start, we’d encourage our Democrat colleagues to include a greater portion of direct state funding for our roads and bridges. We realize this may present some challenges to creating new programs, expanding existing programs, or threaten various pet projects. But in the interest of the people of Colorado, isn’t how folks get to and from work a priority?

Second, we recognize that fees are the new taxes, and that enterprises are simply expanded bureaucracy. But when voters last year approved a ballot measure demanding these enterprises seek voter approval to increase fees, we’re confident they meant even the four enterprises included in the Democrats’ bill, SB 260. Let those voters have their say and sunset those taxes when projects get done.

Asking the state to pay more to take care of the whole state seems reasonable. Honoring taxpayer approval of enterprise fees seems not only reasonable, but constitutional.

State Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, is Colorado House minority leader. State Rep. Tim Geitner, R-Falcon, is House assistant minority leader. State Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, is House minority caucus chair. State Rep. Rod Pelton, R-Cheyenne Wells, is House minority whip.

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