For the past five months our focus has been on advocating at the Capitol for our members. And, as we all know the ballot is another place that a lot of policy gets made in Colorado.
The statewide transportation coalition we are part of will give voters the opportunity to address our woefully underfunded transportation system through a 0.62 percent sales tax increase.
This is an issue that impacts all Coloradans. As a matter of fact, we did some research with Colorado Mesa University, and when we asked adults across the state if they think transportation is a problem, 75 percent on the Western Slope, 80 percent in southern Colorado and 90 percent here in metro Denver agreed it’s a big issue. (Of course, I would like to meet the one out of 10 residents in metro Denver who don’t ?)
And, our failure to invest is costing us all time and money. “Colorado Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility” was released last year, and the report by national transportation research group TRIP found that as a metro area driver you’re paying an additional $2,000 each year because of traffic congestion delays, damage to vehicles, traffic accidents and lost gas efficiency.
This is a year where we hoped our legislature would provide significant funding for our transportation system, but we only secured one-time funding of $645 million and the potential for voters to approve more in the future. While this sounds like a lot of money, it doesn’t even come close to the $9 billion in projects from the Colorado Department of Transportation. There’s still no funding for maintenance for CDOT (for things like potholes, paving and snow removal) and it does not make a dent in what our cities and counties need for our local roads, which make up over 88 percent of the roads we drive on each day. This money certainly doesn’t address our competitive disadvantage to Utah, which is seriously investing in its transportation system by raising the gas tax twice and dedicating an increase in their sales tax to that investment.
There are some upsides to using sales tax to fund our transportation system:
- It means the 55 million visitors to our state help pay for our roads too, taking some burden off us as residents;
- It actually ensures that the parts of the state that are thriving will help fund the transportation system for those parts of the state that haven’t had the same economic success;
- As a dedicated revenue stream, it can never be used for something else—it must go to improve our transportation system;
- As new revenue, it positions Colorado to be considered for additional federal funding ahead of other states who are not taking action to address their infrastructure needs.
We will be in the field soon, collecting signatures for the ballot — you can sign petitions here at the Chamber as a matter of fact, so please make a point to do so when you are in the office. We will let you know all the ways you can help over the next few months.
Speaking of elections, the primaries will be here on June 26, and ballots will be mailed in early June. That means now is the time to update your voter registration if you need to or register to vote. And, if you’re an unaffiliated voter, you can take part in a primary for the first time. Read more about how it works, or visit uchoose.co.gov to verify your registration and select which primary election you’ll participate in.
Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.