JCBL Legislative Update: At the halfway mark, a tentative deal on new transportation funding.
By Jeff Weist,
Jefferson County Business Lobby
March 21, 2018
The 2018 session of Colorado’s state legislature has been a relatively slow one for major business issues so far, but that all changed this week when the state’s economists released their latest forecast for state tax revenue receipts. That number is important because most of the outstanding major issues left for Republican Senate and Democratic House to resolve – like more desperately-needed funding for transportation — depend on how much money is available to fund new priorities.
After more than a decade of tough years for the state legislature’s budget writers on the Joint Budget Committee, Colorado is facing an unusual rush of tax revenue this year due – ironically – to the federal tax reform bill recently enacted by the US Congress. In fact, the latest revenue estimates show state tax revenue to be up almost 13% for the current budget year.
That news set of a flurry of activity as legislators jockeyed to secure funding for not only transportation – a top JCBL priority – but also education, reform to underfunded state employee retirement system and many others.
It is still too early to know for sure, but the indications are encouraging that the state legislature will approve about $500 million dollars in one-time funding for transportation for the coming fiscal year. Both the Senate and the Joint Budget Committee have approved that amount. But a tentative bi-partisan deal in the Senate would also add another $250 million per year after that to pay for future bonding or maintenance. That is no where near enough to fill the estimated $9 billion backlog of road projects facing CDOT and our local communities statewide, but it is a decent start.
Jefferson County’s own State Senator Rachel Zenzinger play a key role in forging that bi-partisan deal. It now heads to the House of Representatives, where the leadership there has indicated a desire to spend more of the surplus on education rather than transportation.
The current version of SB18-001, the vehicle for this new transportation funding proposal, would not send the question to the voters of issuing bonds to front-load road construction projects. That was a priority for the Republicans, a question that would be put off for a year to see if the voters approve either of two proposed tax increases for road projects. One would increase the state sales tax from one-half to one percentage point, depending on which version the proponents push forward, while the other proposal would increase vehicle ownership taxes.
Just a reminder that you can find the status of all of the JCBL bills at jeffcobusinesslobby.org. While you are there, sign up for regular updates under the “Take Action” icon.