Council mixed on transportation legislation

Members vote, 4-2, list several concerns with FASTER bill


In other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Craig City Council:

• Approved, 6-0, a resolution supporting a $200,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to fund resurfacing and deck repairs at the City Park wave pool. The city agreed to match the grant with $100,000.

• Approved, 6-0, reappointing Darin Hickey and Howie Holland to the Craig Board of Appeals. They were the only two applicants.

— Despite strong objections from Craig Mayor Don Jones and Councilor Joe Herod, the City Council voted Tuesday to throw its support behind a proposed $200 million state revenue increase for transportation.

The Council's decision came after a 4-2 vote in which every member who voted in favor of the city's backing also said they had several concerns.

Their decision means Craig will join the Colorado Municipal League, a statewide group that represents city governments to the Legislature, in supporting the Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act of 2009, otherwise known as FASTER.

Councilor Bill Johnston missed the meeting because of illness.

In the end, each of the councilors who voted to support the bill - Ray Beck, Terry Carwile, Gene Bilodeau and Byron Willems - said transportation is too critical for the state to not do something.

"Transportation has been controversial for a long time, and I think this bill is a right step in the right direction," Beck said.

"We have to start somewhere," Carwile said.

Bilodeau and Willems added they were glad the bill generated revenue for something worthwhile.

"Pretty much like everyone else, my money is important to me, and it always seems like someone is asking for it," Bilodeau said. "But, I don't mind paying for certain services (such as roads) : and this is a start in the right direction."

Fears about the Front Range taking all the money for itself did not deter Willems' vote.

"If it fixes any highway in the state, well, I live in Colorado," Willems said. "That's good enough for me."

Jones and Herod gave different reasons for their opposition.

People have to begin to stand up for themselves before the government takes everything left in their pocketbooks, Herod said.

"With the way the economy is and the way the government is right now, it's another way for the taxpayers to bail out the government," he said. "Somewhere down the line, we as taxpayers need to stop and quit."

Jones said he does not object to the state raising money for roads and bridges, but he does not agree with the way it's raising money.

According to the Colorado Legislative Council, FASTER uses two new surcharges on annual vehicle registrations to raise most of the additional revenue. Those fees project to raise about $180 million of the estimated $200 million during the next fiscal year from July 2009 to June 2010.

One charge - the road safety surcharge - would raise $129 million a year for the state Highway Users Tax Fund, which is shared with local governments across the state.

The other - a bridge safety surcharge - would raise $51 million the first year and then $100 million a year afterward. Its funds would pay for bridge improvements across the state.

The two together would cost an average motorist an additional $41 a year, according to a Municipal League report.

FASTER also would institute a $2 a day tax on rental cars, double the state's surcharge on oversize vehicle permits to $159.20 and increase the monthly fine for overdue registrations to $25.

The Legislative Council does not have an estimate for how much it will cost the state to run the various new programs and funds, but the bill would not add new employees to the state payroll, said Chris Ward, Legislative Council fiscal analyst.

He added a new fiscal note examining the bill should be out next week and likely will include a state cost estimate.

Jones said he agrees with the state's intent.

The problem is FASTER asks only Colorado drivers to pay for the state's transportation, when a casual tour of Rio Blanco County will show anyone that heavy trucks with out-of-state license plates do most of the damage, the mayor said.

"It's just Colorado people only, and that's not in the best interest of the taxpayers," Jones said.

A straightforward gas tax would be better, he added.

Gas taxes used to work, said Mark Radtke, policy advocate for the Municipal League, but they are practically obsolete now.

"The gas tax has been flat (in terms of revenue) for a number of years," he said. "As people continue to drive less and drive more fuel efficient vehicles, the gas tax is going to stay flat and will start to go down."

The Colorado Department of Transportation projects to have the same amount of funding as it did in 1983 because of problems with the gas tax and other revenues, Radtke said. The state needs to put money into transportation.

CDOT needs an estimated $500 million more each year to keep up with maintenance, and even then wouldn't be able to build new roads, Radtke said.

However, FASTER will not solve the problem, he added. Additional revenue will have to be created.

Carwile agreed with Radtke's last point during the council meeting Tuesday, though he cautioned taxes won't cut it.

Transportation will have to fund itself, he said.

"We will need a statewide transportation utility, operated as an enterprise fund, to cover transportation," Carwile said. "We're not going to get out of this with a tax."


Ray Cartwright 8 years, 2 months ago

Let me figure this up, if you have 2 cars, a junker for hauling trash because my landfill fee went up $3, and a RV of some kind. $164 more per year. I guess I can cover that with my State Income Tax Refund. Come-on people where and when is it going to end. Oh wait I was going to use that extra money to go out to eat as a special treat for the wife and I since we can't afford to do that much anymore what with the rising cost of everything and the lack of my wages going up accordingly.


lonelyone 8 years, 2 months ago

Why don't you guys just come get my house and everything in it right now, cuz your sure doing your best to take everything away from people your elected to take care of...........oh wait, silly me, I live in the county and can't do a darn thing about the decisions they make, except to pay and pay and pay. I live in Colorado too and I don't drive on the roads in Northeast Colorado to bird hunt, I don't go to the southeast to go to the state fair, I very seldom go to Denver, so why should I have to help pay for their roads and you know darn well most of that money will stay in the Front Range. Sure we'll get to finish fixing the issues with highway 13 north..........after they get all their stuff done! Which will never happen because of their population they always have needs greater then ours and we just don't count over here.


grannyrett 8 years, 2 months ago

lonely--You got it down pat!!! Years ago, there was talk of having two states--East and West Colorado. Maybe it wasn't a bad idea.


taxslave 8 years, 2 months ago

Another doozie of a report.......

This stuff is current, up-to-date...everything I post is. It's the truth too. Next time either a rep. or sen. comes to town, the sheriff should arrest him until he/her answers for this mess.


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