Stimulate or stall

Although both are controlled by Democrats, Congress and the Colorado Legislature are working at cross purposes when it comes to stimulating the economy.

Just this week, for example, the U.S. Senate passed a measure aimed at aiding the beleaguered auto industry by encouraging people to buy new vehicles. With a solid bipartisan majority, the Senate voted to allow income tax deductions for sales taxes on new cars and for interest on auto loans.

And what did the Colorado Senate do? It gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that will raise registration fees for all vehicles, thereby adding to the cost of new vehicles discouraging consumers from purchasing them.

The so-called “FASTER” bill, aimed at raising money for highways and bridges in Colorado, would raise most vehicle registration fees by $32 this year and $41 next year.

Fees for larger, heavier vehicles, including commercial trucks, would go up even more.

So, in addition to affecting retail auto sales, it would add significant costs for truckers, many of whom are already experiencing a significant drop in revenue due to the economy.

Democrats now tout the FASTER bill as a jobs-creation measure as much as a means of funding highways. But that may be a dubious claim.

As Sen. Shawn Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican, put it, the measure amounts to a “quarter-billion-dollar tax increase during some of the roughest economic times our state has seen.”

We recognize there is a need for additional highway funding in Colorado. That’s why we have supported increasing the amount of highway infrastructure funds included in the federal stimulus bill.

We have also endorsed other funding ideas for Colorado highways, such as toll roads in certain cases. And the Republicans’ proposal for a more modest increase in registration fees would be better than the FASTER bill as approved in state Senate Wednesday.

But the most critical need in Colorado and across the country now is getting the economy back on track.

Enacting massive tax increases right now that discourage consumer spending and imperil business health will stall that effort, not help it.


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