GOP pols announce plan to boost highway funding
To repair the state’s ailing transportation system, state lawmakers need to dip into Colorado’s operating budget, according to two prominent policymakers.
State Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, and state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said during a Sunday press conference that they intend to introduce legislation next year to further fund Colorado’s highway, bridge and road network.
“We intend legislation that’s going to dedicate General Fund revenue,” McNulty said.
Under Colorado’s budgeting process, transportation is funded last, with whatever money is leftover after other state programs and agencies are given their fill of tax dollars.
As a result, highway-improvement projects are funded in good years, but not in most years, as there is often not enough money to confront the state’s transportation needs.
A blue ribbon panel summoned by Gov. Bill Ritter told state lawmakers earlier this year that the state needs to invest $500 million to $1.5 billion annually to keep pace with the state’s needs.
McNulty said the funding model no longer works and needs to be revamped as soon as possible.
McNulty and Penry are working to pass a ballot initiative this year that would send taxes on oil and natural gas drilled in Colorado to the state’s highway budget.
McNulty called Amendment 52 only the “first step.”
“If we fail on this, it’s a pox on both of our houses,” Penry said.
He said that he and other state lawmakers, including Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, have worked hard to lay the groundwork of a transportation-funding plan since the Legislature closed its session in May.
Penry said any highway-funding solution that emerges will be a patchwork of measures and not a single tax or fee increase.
“There is not a lot of support for raising taxes on the front-end of a recession,” Penry said.