Ron Teck Column October 22, 2008
Amendment 52 is not the right solution on roads
During my eight years in the state Senate, I became convinced that we should not put spending mandates into the state Constitution. We are faced with this bad idea again this year with Amendment 52, an initiative that will lock a very problematic spending formula into the Constitution, harming our state’s ability to meet its water-supply demands in the process.
Our state continues to deal with the many unintended consequences of TABOR and Amendment 23, and it doesn’t need another constitutional spending earmark further frustrating the Legislature’s ability to prioritize where to allocate money to address the challenges facing the state.
Amendment 52 would require that the Legislature take money that would otherwise go to water projects and spend it on transportation, with a hope that it would be spent on solving problems on Interstate 70.
There is, however, no guarantee that any money will be used for I-70; Amendment 52 states that these dollars may be used for projects along I-70.
Understanding that the Legislature, and not the Colorado Transportation Commission, will control these dollars only further complicates the issue, making it even less clear where the money will actually be spent.
A long list of lawmakers stands in opposition to Amendment 52, out of the recognition that Colorado doesn’t benefit from locking funding mandates in the Constitution, especially where the change creates an end run around well-established transportation planning.
Amendment 52 will limit dollars that would otherwise flow into water projects. Instead, it would send these dollars to transportation projects. While I recognize the importance of finding additional revenue for our state’s transportation needs, the amount of money for transportation from this scheme is relatively small compared to the need but is large in what it can do for water projects.
I agree that we need to find funds to solve our transportation problems, but we also need to address some very serious water challenges facing the state. This “robbing Peter to pay Paul” approach is not good public policy.
Amendment 52 has pitted two very important interests against one another: water versus transportation.
The Western Slope has historically derived a significant benefit from loan and grant dollars poured into water projects in our communities. These dollars go to build reservoirs, ensure dam safety and help the Western Slope meet its growing water supply demands.
The state has already identified a $2.7 billion need for water projects and Amendment 52 will hurt our ability to meet that need without providing any substantial benefit for the trade-off.
Leaders in the transportation community are working to create solutions to Colorado’s transportation needs and they need to develop solutions that don’t solve one problem while creating another.
I don’t support spending mandates in the state Constitution that create problems where they didn’t once exist. I urge people to vote “No” on Amendment 52.
Ron Teck is a former state senator from Mesa County.