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August 23, 2018 4:15 PM, EDT

Colorado Transportation Bond Proposal Qualifies for November Ballot

Traffic on a Colorado highway Travelers on I-70 near Evergreen, Colo. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

The “Fix Our Damn Roads” proposal to sell $3.5 billion in bonds to finance state road and bridge projects has made the ballot, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced Aug. 22.

A random sampling of the measure’s petition signatures showed backers of Initiative 167 had submitted enough to exceed the 98,492 needed to qualify for the November election, Williams stated in a news release.

Still being reviewed, counted and verified as of Aug. 22 were signatures submitted for Initiative 153, also known as the “Let’s Go Colorado” measure. The rival transportation funding proposal would ask Colorado voters to increase the state’s 2.9% sales and use tax rate to 3.52% for 20 years. The tax increase would generate a projected $19.1 billion for state highway, multimodal and local transportation spending.

Initiative 167, which is being promoted by libertarian think tank Independence Institute, does not include a proposed tax increase to repay the principal and interest on the $3.5 billion in bonds it would authorize. Instead, the Legislature would have to find bond repayment money in the existing state budget, something critics of the measure have said would necessitate cuts in other services and programs.

Jon Caldara

Caldara via YouTube

“We’re thrilled to be on the ballot,” Independence Institute President Jon Caldara stated in an Aug. 22 news release.

“For too long, the state has held our roads and bridges hostage while increasing spending on other priorities like Medicaid expansion, hoping we taxpayers will get so frustrated by traffic we’ll agree to a tax increase,” Caldara said.

The language in Initiative 167 would limit spending of bond proceeds to road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs in the state highway system. Money could not be spent on mass transit projects.

The rival Initiative 153 measure would authorize the state to sell up to $6 billion in bonds to be repaid from tax increase revenues. The initiative would distribute the overall 20 years of revenue three ways, with 45% going for bond repayment and state transportation funding, 15% for multimodal transportation projects that could include state and local transit, cycling and pedestrian improvements. The remaining 40% would be distributed to municipalities and counties to be spent on transportation projects decided on by local elected officials.

The Let’s Go Colorado’s campaign website states the Colorado Department of Transportation “has more than $9 billion in projects with no funding — and that’s only part of the issue. Our local communities lack the resources to address congestion, maintain roads and improve safety.”

Denver Metro Chamber CEO Kelly Brough spoke in favor of Initiative 153 at the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee and the Boulder Chamber Policy Committee meetings Aug. 14. The Denver chamber is leading a coalition backing the initiative. An Independence Institute representative, scheduled to speak about Initiative 167, was unable to participate in either of those meetings.

The Longmont chamber on Aug. 22 announced that Caldara will meet with its Public Policy Committee on Sept. 14 to discuss the initiative.

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