Colorado lawmakers send massive transportation funding deal to Hickenlooper's desk

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Posted at 8:35 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 23:10:25-04

DENVER – Colorado lawmakers’ massive transportation deal is headed to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk after passing the House Tuesday afternoon and passing the Senate unanimously later in the day.

The unanimous approval of Senate Bill 1 in the Senate came after all House Republicans voted against the latest version of the bill – which was introduced Monday as an amendment after a deal between House Democratic leadership and Senate Republican leadership.

Under the measure, a total of $645 million in general fund money will be put toward transportation projects over the next two years, and an additional $50 million per year will go toward paying down the $9 billion Colorado Department of Transportation project backlog for the remaining 18 years.

Voters would also be asked to allow the state to borrow about $2.3 billion in bonds on the 2019 ballot, which would bring the total borrowed total to $3.25 billion when combined with other transportation bonds already approved.

Over the next two years, the $645 million would be split: 70 percent would go to CDOT highway projects, 15 percent would be set for local road projects, and the other 15 percent would be allotted for local transit or “multi-modal” projects – some of which would need to be matched by local entities, lawmakers said.

Of the bonds, should they be approved, 85 percent of the money would go toward CDOT highway projects, and the remaining 15 percent would go to transit.

And if a handful of ballot petition drives seeking to ask voters for various sources of road funding are approved for November’s ballot and approved by voters, that would nullify the 2019 bonding question.

One of those proposals would raise the state sales tax to pay off the Colorado Department of Transportation’s $9 billion backlog, and the other would try to force the legislature to figure out how to fund transportation projects without increasing taxes. Petition drives for both are underway.

The changes came after an agreement between House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, following an impasse between the two chambers over whether to include bonding measures, and how much to include. Duran said Tuesday that passage of the measure was a “critical step forward” in addressing transportation concerns in all parts of Colorado.

“Every Senate Republican, every Senate Democrat and every House Democrat voted to approve this desperately needed investment to relieve traffic congestion and support Colorado’s quality of life,” Duran said in a statement. “Every House Republican voted against it. The House Rs are not just out of step with what’s best for our state and our people, they are unanimously out of step.” 

Two groups that had supported the version of the measure the Senate initially passed this session – also unanimously – said they were pleased with the compromise bill on Monday.

Hickenlooper had sought a transportation and road funding fix to address the CDOT backlog when he kicked off this year’s session – his last as governor because of term limits. The legislative session ends Wednesday.