Senate Committee Passes Transportation Bill

This morning the Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing on SB 272, “Authorize New Transportation Revenue Anticipation Notes,” a bill that would ask state voters to approve TRANS bonds (Transportation Revenue Anticipation Notes). TRANS was first passed by voters in 1999 and provided the revenue to finance the T-REX project and many others. The new version, which is know as TRANS II, would include a specific list of 50 priority projects, including North I-25. It would provide $3.5 billion in funding over the next 20 years. TRANS would not create any new taxes; it would simply allow the State to bond against 50 percent of the anticipated gas-tax revenue provided by the federal government. It is sponsored by Sen. Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulphur Springs) and Rep. Brian DelGrosso (Loveland).

This proposal, which has been championed by the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, seems like one solution to the State’s transportation woes. However, CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt and Governor John Hickenlooper are not yet convinced. They argue that TRANS would increase the State’s debt and reduce the amount of money available for road maintenance.

A statewide survey financed by NCLA shows voters would support TRANS by a substantial margin. The committee voted to approve the bill on a party line vote (3-2), sending it to the Senate for a full vote. The question now is if the bill can make it through the Legislature before the end of the session. It’s unfortunate that the vote today became partisan and if that continues to be the case then the bill will not survive the session.

Note: The administration is promoting its own plan announced that would remove the hospital-provider fee from under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights revenue cap, thus reducing the revenues classified under TABOR. According to a memo the Governor released last week, this move would ensure a $1 billion transfer from the general fund to transportation projects over the next five years. The Governor’s plan has its own supporters and opponents though, since it also includes a proposal to use severance taxes to balance the budget, something that is not popular with local jurisdictions that rely on those revenues.

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