Without advocating for or against either of the two transportation measures on this year's ballot, several Colorado Department of Transportation officials were in town Tuesday outlining just what both would pay for should voters approve one or the other.
Proposition 110 calls for increasing the state's sales taxes by 0.62 percent to raise about $767 million a year for the next 20 years to be used solely for state and local transportation projects.
The second measure, Proposition 109, calls on the state to issue up to $3.5 billion in bonds without raising taxes to pay for numerous specific projects statewide.
Kathy Hall, who represents the region on the 11-member Colorado Transportation Commission, said transportation isn't just about getting up to the mountains to go skiing or hunting, it's vital to maintaining the state's vibrant economy.
"When we can't get goods and services down I-70, which is our key area, for every hour that I-70 is closed there is $1 million lost in revenues," Hall said at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, one of several that CDOT is holding around the state. "In Colorado, we move about $341 billion worth of goods every year. So a third of our economy relies on freight, and freight relies on our roads."
While Prop 110 would bring in enough additional revenue to pay for the nearly $7 billion in projects that already have been identified as needed, it also could cover much of the nearly $3 billion in additional projects that are expected to be needed after that, Hall said.
The measure also allocates 40 percent of those new revenues in direct disbursements to local governments to use for their own transportation needs.
Prop 109 includes a list of numerous specific projects, the preponderance of which are east of the Continental Divide. Doing every project on that list would cost about $4.7 billion, but the measure only calls for issuing up to $3.5 billion in bonds, meaning not all of them would get done. That measure also would require the Colorado Legislature to find $260 million a year to pay off the bonds over the next two decades, which could be as much as $5.5 billion.
As a result, that second measure is nearly identical to the transportation bonds that voters approved in 1999, which called for issuing $1.7 billion to fund 24 projects. In actuality, that measure paid only for a handful of those projects, most of which were in the Denver and Colorado Springs metropolitan areas.
Hall said there's clearly a need for more funding for transportation, saying that the state's 22-cent per gallon gasoline tax hasn't been increased since voters approved the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights in 1992.
That tax and money the state receives from the 18.4 cents a gallon in federal gas taxes, both of which have dwindled in recent years because of more fuel-efficient vehicles, are the main funding sources for CDOT.
"People feel like when gas prices went up, that was more money that went into CDOT, but it's not." Hall said. "No matter what the price of gas is, we get 22 cents from the state and 18.4 cents from federal. It doesn't matter what the price is."