Road, bridge repair fee bill advances

Changes that Republicans and moderate Democrats made Wednesday to a sprawling $250 million roads-funding proposal did little to allay conservatives’ concerns with the bill in the state Senate.

“What we are considering is a quarter-billion-dollar tax increase. … You don’t slam taxpayers while they’re down,” said Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said he and his caucus could not support the package of automotive fees, because Democrats ultimately refused to compromise.

“The frustrating thing is, in the end, this bill is substantially the same as it was (when it was) introduced,” Penry said.

Over the Republicans’ protests, Senate Democrats pushed through Senate Bill 108, which would devote roughly $250 million raised through automotive fees to repairing the state’s roads and bridges, on a 21-14 vote. The measure could come up for a final vote in the Senate as soon as today.

Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, fired back at his GOP colleagues, accusing them of not understanding that Colorado needs “leadership and not rhetoric.”

“Democrats have moved to the center on this. … The fact that we are where we are is because some who were elected to this body didn’t have the political will to do what was right,” Groff said.

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said Senate Bill 108 is a way to “hold the system together” and prevent a “transportation civil war” between urban and rural areas.

Romer said Colorado’s metropolitan areas would pay for the majority of highway and bridge repairs across the state, but that it would be preferable to having fragmented quality of roads across Colorado.

“I urge you, no more patchwork,” Sen. Joyce Foster, D-
Denver, said.

Partisanship dominated the debate Wednesday, but Groff said lawmakers came together on a few matters. The unlikely alliance of Republicans and moderate Democrats stripped
Senate Bill 108 of provisions that called for a study of the implementation of a vehicle-miles-traveled tax.

“This is intrusion; this is tracking,” said Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley. “People don’t want this.”

The Senate voted to add language to the bill to allow for tolling on highways only when it is unanimously endorsed by the local cities and counties through which the toll road will pass.


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