Fixing the crumbling and crowded roads across our state has been a talking point for politicians in Colorado for years, as the project backlog has grown to more than $9 billion. Democrats who control the purse in the Legislature don't seem to feel any urgency to fix the funding issues creating the backlog. In his first address to the General Assembly, Gov. Jared Polis spent mere seconds talking about the underfunded transportation infrastructure, offering no real solution.
Even though many legislators made it part of their campaigns, funding for road improvements has unfortunately been a victim of the dysfunction and liberal agenda of the leaders of the Democratic majority. They seem to be counting on the roads getting so bad that Coloradans will approve a tax increase just to fix them. Last November, Coloradans rejected both a sales tax increase and a bonding proposal that would have made a dent in the backlog of projects. That's an incredibly clear message to legislators — prioritize our budget to fix critical infrastructure problems across the state.
How did fixing our roads become such an afterthought — allowing so many unfunded projects to back up over the years? Numbers released by the Colorado Department of Transportation calculate that paving one lane of one mile of roadway costs taxpayers $1.5 million, and one lane of widening a roadway will cost us $2 million. If the current status quo remains, CDOT is projecting a $25 billion funding gap over the next 25 years. Fixing roads ain't cheap, but they are necessary.
The most significant difference between my political philosophy and that of many of my Democratic friends is in what the ultimate goal and responsibility of government should be. By the votes of last November, it appears that most Coloradans agree with me that it is a basic role of government to prioritize funding infrastructure and fixing our roads and bridges.
Instead of doing the hard work, Democrats in the Legislature are heading towards approving one-time minimal funding for road improvements, while developing ideas for "new revenue" (translation: tax increases). There's a plan to attempt to dismantle our Taxpayer's Bill of Rights by asking voters to permanently give back their tax refunds to the state. The proposal would destroy the part of our Constitution which puts spending guardrails on our government, without providing a stable funding mechanism for transportation. There is also discussion of a gas tax … but they'll call it a "fee" to avoid asking for taxpayer approval as specified by TABOR.
I live in the Denver area and I'm part of the large number of people who take the opportunity most weekends to get out of the city and head to the mountains, and regularly visit my family on the Western Slope. It's a lifestyle that usually comes with a choice of waking up long before dawn or sitting in hours of traffic — no matter what season it is. It's frustrating to sit in traffic, but the consequences of bad roads can be much more far reaching than getting a late start on a ski day. They get us to work, keep our economy moving, transport medical emergencies, and connect Coloradans. It's beyond time that the Legislature make it a priority — like many said they would during campaign season — and fix our roads.
Lindsey Singer is the communications director for Colorado Rising Action, a 501(c)(4) organization focused on holding liberal groups and their special interest networks accountable and advancing conservative principles. CRA is a member of the TABORYes Coalition, committed to protecting and strengthening the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.