Transportation funding bill leaves out rural communities
March 6, 2011
After passing out of the state House of Representatives, a bill intended to help metro communities attain funding for state highway projects, but which excludes rural communities, was introduced in the state Senate March 2.
The legislation, billed an economic development measure by sponsors, would allow some local governments to retain half of the state sales tax generated in a specific area to be used for state highway projects, provided the locality can demonstrate that the transportation project will lead to commercial development and an increase in state sales tax revenue.
But the bill, House Bill 1220, notably excludes smaller, rural communities like Summit County from participating.
“It diverts money only to urban areas,” said Summit County Commissioner and former state senator Dan Gibbs. “Which is not good for Summit County.”
The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Suzanne Williams, a Democrat from Aurora, said the bill will help foster economic development and create jobs in local communities.
“The goal of the bill is to facilitate companies coming in and filling in development and jobs,” Williams said of the bill. “It’s really more to do with the metro area.”
Under the legislation, eligible local governments would appeal to the state Office of Economic Development for approval on projects, which, if obtained would allow those governments to keep sales tax dollars that otherwise would have gone to the state budget, Gibbs said.
“It takes CDOT out of the equation in many ways,” Gibbs said. “Local governments apply to the state Office of Economic Development for approval and they approve it. It’s more or less a green light for CDOT to get started right away.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation is taking a neutral stance on the bill and monitoring its progress and changes as it passes through the Senate, CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said.
Gibbs said he is also concerned about the legislation funneling state sales tax revenue away from the state government during a more than $1 billion budget shortfall.
Gibbs said he had not decided whether to testify against the bill.
Williams said the bill has gotten widespread bipartisan support. Legislators from both parties have signed on to co-sponsor the bill.
House Bill 1220 was sponsored in the House by Rep. Don Beezley of Broomfield, who could not be reached for comment.