Coalition unveils ballot proposals to increase state sales tax to pay for infrastructure projects

DENVER – The coalition of leaders from across the state hoping to put a question to state voters this November to raise the state sales tax to help pay for road projects officially unveiled their plans Thursday.

The panel, led by former Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon, Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, officially filed their four ballot initiatives Thursday as proposals from state lawmakers to fund road projects remain in limbo.

The varying proposals would all raise the state sales tax, but in different amounts. The coalition hopes to garner enough support for one of the proposals to put on November’s ballot.

The first three proposals would raise the state sales tax by 0.5 percent, 0.62 percent and 1 percent, respectively. A 1-percent increase would be a penny on each dollar spent, meaning 20 extra cents for every $20 spent.

The fourth proposal would raise the sales tax by 0.5 percent and require the state transfer $150 million from the state’s General Fund.

Kelly Brough, the Metro Denver chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO, told Denver7 earlier this week that since Colorado’s tourism industry continues to expand, that all the outside money being spent would help fund the roads.

She said the money raised from the theoretical tax increase could also go to some local priorities in addition to some statewide road projects.

The coalition additionally said Friday that the revenue raised would go directly to maintenance and new construction projects, as well as bonds meant to inject money into projects that have been part of the massive transportation infrastructure backlog the state has seen in recent years.

Colorado state lawmakers are also working on several transportation-related measures of their own, and what comes out of the legislative session funding-wise could have a bearing on which of the four proposals from the coalition is pushed toward the ballot.

The coalition points to drivers spending less on fuel because of more-efficient vehicles, which affects the state’s revenue because of the gas tax rate.

In addition to the support from Noon, a Republican, and Gibbs, a Democrat, the coalition rolled out support from various statewide politicians and economic leaders.

“A tax increase is the last thing I’d like to support, but we need a solution that works for rural Colorado and let local communities decide how dollars are spent,” said Lincoln County Commissioner Steve Burgess, a Republican. “Voters deserve the opportunity to weigh in because it seems like every year we miss an opportunity to address our transportation problems.”

“Year after year, the state has failed to find additional funding,” said Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Rod Slyhoff. “We need a real solution, one that reduces congestion and fixes all of our roads statewide.”

The state has estimated it needs more than $9 billion to address the state’s infrastructure needs, and between the gridlock in the legislature, the ballot proposals, and President Trump’s infrastructure plan, which some in Colorado say would be bad for the state because it puts to onus on local and state governments to fund road projects.

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