Penry vows GOP fight on bridge, roads bill

Democrats eager to drive a multimillion-dollar road-funding bill through the state Senate today can expect a jarring ride from conservative lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Josh
Penry, R-Grand Junction, pledged ahead of the vote.

Penry said Democratic leaders behind a package of vehicle fee and tax hikes have rejected a series of compromises from Republican lawmakers aimed at lowering the burden their measure, Senate Bill 108, will levy on Coloradans.

“We made a sincere good-faith effort, but we’re not going to unwittingly be a party to really bad public policy,” he said.

Penry said his caucus has had serious heartburn over the provisions of the bill, dubbed FASTER — Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery — allowing for more highway tolls and hiking vehicle fees to raise roughly $250 million next year alone.

Penry said Republican lawmakers were open to some fee hikes, but Democrats have failed to meet their conservative peers halfway.

“Negotiations have gridlocked,” Penry said.

Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said negotiations have stalled because Penry and his peers have been unwilling to budge from their concept of a compromise.

“Nobody is excited about raising fees on anybody, but, at the same time, we feel there is a public safety issue out there,” Shaffer said. “We’ve got to fix bridges, and we’ve also got to put people to work.”

As a result, he said Senate Democrats plan to push the bill through their chamber this week and pass it off to House lawmakers in the hope they are more open to compromise.

“It’s time for us to keep this moving and bring some new people to the table,” Shaffer said.

To learn more about Senate Bill 108 or to listen in on this morning’s debate in the Senate, go to http://www.leg.state.co.us.


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