Entrenched partisanship over transportation funding must end before it chokes off prosperity in this state. It’s time for both parties in the Legislature to acknowledge that their pet approaches are political dead ends.
Every year that the Legislature fails to come up with a long-term solution for fixing the state’s roads, they get worse. A recent report by the Reason Foundation ranked the quality of Colorado’s rural roads 47th nationwide.
A coalition of business organizations throughout the state called A Way Forward is calling on the state Legislature to develop a bipartisan solution and it’s developed a practical framework that aligns with today’s political reality.
Mike Kopp, the director of Colorado Concern, a member of the coalition, recently spent time explaining to The Sentinel’s editorial board the “all or nothing” approach that’s dominated the transportation policy discussion over the past few years.
Extensive polling shows a little less than half the state says it will accept some version of a gas-tax hike and a little less than half the state says it will accept paying for transportation by bonding against general fund revenues.
“It’s easy for Democrats to say, ‘if general fund spending is such a good idea, go the ballot and ask voters;’ and it’s easy for Republicans to say, ‘well, if the gas tax is such a good idea, go to the ballot.’” Since neither has any chance of passing, lawmakers must find some middle ground or allow the stalemate to continue — and watch roads deteriorate further.
Kopp says Colorado Concern’s polling shows 62 percent support for A Way Forward’s framework, which calls for paying for a 10-year, $5 billion package of transportation improvements with a mix of existing revenues and certain targeted user fees.
A Way Forward’s plan builds on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s 10-year statewide plan. CDOT officials met with Coloradans in all 64 counties and compiled a project list to return roads to a state of good repair.
That plan provides the Legislature with an opportunity to find a funding solution during this year’s legislative session. A Way Forward is suggesting a strong accountability component as a key to winning long-term public buy-in. A website and additional transparency measures would prove that funds committed to the project will go to the highest priority roads.
So far, no bill dealing with long-term transportation funding has been introduced into the Legislature. But Kopp, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate, has been bending as many ears as he can.
“We need help making legislators on both sides to take this seriously,” he said. “They’re hurting the state if they don’t get this done.”
We think state Sen. Ray Scott has a real opportunity to lead on this issue. A Way Forward’s proposal touches on one his priorities, which is accountability for CDOT. We need Republicans at the table on a compromise solution that ensures rural Colorado gets equitable treatment in any long-term transportation funding plan.
We encourage Western Slopers to reach out to their representatives in the statehouse and emphasize the importance of finding a path forward on this critical issue.