A road to compromise

A funding plan for roads and bridges in Colorado will likely be the most important order of business when the state Senate convenes today.

Late Tuesday, a compromise was said to be in the works that would provide some significant changes. We hope that compromise spirit is reflected in action in the full Senate.

Nobody from either party is arguing that nothing should be done to boost money for highways and bridges. But the extent of that funding plan — and the fees and taxes that are instituted to enact it — are issues that merit serious consideration.

We agree with Republicans, for instance, that a possible tax on Colorado motorists based on the amount of miles they travel in their vehicles each year would be a mistake. Although the bill currently only calls for a pilot program to test such a tax, we don’t see how it can be enacted without hurting rural areas of the state. Furthermore, it will discourage Coloradans from vacationing within their own state, yet it will derive no revenue from out-of-state tourists.

However, when it comes to expansion of the state’s authority to use toll roads, the Democratic proposal makes sense. That doesn’t mean every highway in the state should be a toll road, but some much-needed improvement on heavy-traffic roads could be paid in part through tolls.

The heart of the transportation bill though, is an increase in the fees paid by every owner of a car, truck or motorcycle. And some compromise is imperative here.

The GOP supports some increase in fees, according to Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, but wants to keep the increases as low as possible — perhaps at an average of $10 to $15 per vehicle.

That’s enough to raise money to fix the 126 state bridges in need of immediate repair and have some left for highways, Penry said.

We don’t know what the exact figure should be. But when more Coloradans are unemployed than have been in decades, and others face uncertain futures, and when auto sales are lagging, any fee increases must be kept to a minimum.


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