Report: Lawmakers should explore hiking fees on car and truck owners

Colorado state lawmakers should explore ways to raise fees on drivers to help the Colorado Department of Transportation confront a looming revenue shortfall, according to a report presented Thursday to the Joint Budget Committee.

“It is likely that none of the system’s users are paying for their full cost responsibility,” the report said.

The Joint Budget Committee report singled out commercial trucks as the vehicles paying the least directly into the highway budget relative to the damage they levy on Colorado’s roads.

According to the report, a fully loaded commercial truck weighing 80,000 pounds causes the same damage to a road as 6,000 passenger cars driving the same stretch.

Commercial truck owners, however, only pay an average of six times more per mile traveled than passenger car owners, according to Joint Budget Committee staff estimates.

Sen.-elect Al White, R-Hayden, said the report’s recommendations were based on the premise that the state would only raise money for its ailing transportation network through fee increases.

White, who sits on the Joint Budget Committee, said the odds of the Legislature passing a massive fee hike for commercial vehicles or passenger cars are almost nil.

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said even Democratic lawmakers are “reticent about talking about any fee or tax increase during this period of economic turmoil.”

Penry said lawmakers likely will look to existing revenue streams to fund the state’s pressing transportation needs.

According to findings released last year by a blue ribbon commission convened by Gov. Bill Ritter, it will take anywhere from $500 million to $1.5 billion every year to maintain the state’s transportation network.

Exacerbating the need for new transportation revenues, the Joint Budget Committee report said, is the fact Colorado only will have $873 million to confront its road and bridge needs next year, a more than 44 percent drop from the state’s transportation budget a year ago.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s projected revenues for the 2009-2010 fiscal year would be the state’s lowest since 2003 when the state was emerging from its last recession, the report said.


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