Full Senate scheduled to vote on car fee hike
DENVER ” Senate Democrats plan to push ahead with a plan to raise vehicle registration fees to pay for highway and bridge repairs without the support of Republican leaders.
They scheduled a vote in the full Senate on Wednesday, prompting Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Fruita, to announce late Tuesday that talks with Republican leaders about changing the bill had “gridlocked.” Penry said Republicans would try to make some changes to the measure (Senate Bill 108) on the floor, but he suspected Democrats had enough votes to pass the bill or they wouldn’t have scheduled a vote.
The measure (Senate Bill 108) has three main parts. Starting this year, it would tack on fees to vehicle registrations ” $32 for passenger cars and many sport utility vehicles ” and impose a $2 daily fee on rental cars. To raise more money in the future, it would allow tolling of existing highways and try out a plan to charge drivers based on the number of miles they travel as a possible replacement for the gas tax.
The Democratic proposal would raise about $250 million a year from the new fees that could be leveraged through bonding. Backers say it’s enough money to fix more than 100 of the state’s worst bridges and catch up on road maintenance over four years.
Penry said Republicans had come up with a plan to raise $150 million a year through a combination of fees and $25 million in severance taxes. He said the fee on passenger cars would have been between $10 and $15 a year. Penry said the plan included waiting for the economy to recover and then gradually finding an extra $10 million a year within the state budget to pay for roads. Altogether, he said the plan would have provided $1.7 billion for highways and bridges over 10 years.
Penry said he also objected to the mileage study and the proposal to toll on existing roads. The mileage study would be voluntary, but Penry said he didn’t want to study an idea that would hurt drivers in rural areas who often drive longer distances than those in cities.
“Elections have consequences. Transponders and toll gates may be among them,” Penry said.
Democratic Rep. Joe Rice of Littleton, the House sponsor of the bill, said the Republican proposal wouldn’t have raised enough money and would have also doubled the rental car fee and imposed a $2 per trip fee on taxi rides which he didn’t think was fair. He said he backed Penry’s plan to take more money from the budget for transportation but said lawmakers first had to talk to the agencies, such as higher education, that would lose money under that approach.
“Transportation should not be put above other priorities in the state budget, but it should be within the priorities of the state budget,” Rice said.
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