- File photo
- House Speaker Crisanta Duran
On March 8, House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, introduced a long-anticipated, top-priority bill that would ask voters to approve a state sales tax hike to pay for much-needed transportation and infrastructure improvements. Specifically, the compromise legislation, House Bill 1242, calls for a 3.52 percent state sales tax (up from 2.9 percent) to generate an estimated $677 million annually over the next two decades. That revenue figure also includes the redirecting of existing funds to this purpose and a decrease in vehicle registration fees. If approved in November, the tax hike would take effect in January 2018.
A $3.5 billion bond would be paid with $350 million in tax funds annually, with the remaining share of the cash getting split 70/30 between local governments for road work and a new state commission for transit-related grants. Expanding Interstate 70 to the west of Denver and widening Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock are two big-ticket items.
Springs Mayor John Suthers, who ran a successful campaign to raise road money, is "pleased" about the bipartisan effort but worries the proposed tax increase could hurt cities like the Springs that already rely on a relatively high local sales tax. He also expressed disappointment that I-25 expansion wasn't specifically addressed and that allocations to local governments would be subject to the city's TABOR revenue cap.