GUEST COLUMN: Transportation tax a bad idea for Colorado

 

By: Kim Monson  April 23, 2017

The proposed 21 percent state sales tax increase, Colorado transportation House Bill (HB)17-1242, estimates tax collection of $14 billion, however, only $5 billion (if we’re generous) is required to go to roads and bridges. A big portion can be spent on subsidized multimodal projects (light rail, bullet trains, bike & walk paths, driverless cars, high occupancy vehicles, etc). Everything but a privately owned vehicle. If you like your car, you may not be able to keep your car.

HB17-1242’s proposed 21 percent state sales tax increase passed in the Colorado House of Representatives and is traveling through the Colorado Senate. If approved, HB17-1242 will appear on the Colorado ballot in November 2017. I hope that our state senators who care about hardworking individuals throughout Colorado will just say no!

A 21 percent state sales tax increase hurts Colorado families who are trying to make ends meet, save for their children’s education and dream of buying a home. Almost everything we purchase – cars, clothes and craft beer – will be more expensive, however, interestingly enough, aviation fuels used in turbo-propeller or jet engine aircraft are items exempted in HB17-1242. Curious.

Per the Colorado Chamber Capitol Report, HB17-1242 is estimated to bring in $700 million per year or $14 billion over the 20-year life of the tax increase. Fourteen billion is a lot of money and HB17-1242 is one of the most impressive “bait and switches” in recent Colorado history. Here’s the breakdown:

– $375 million per year is dedicated to pay off $3.5 billion (not to exceed $5 billion with interest) in Transportation Revenue Anticipation Notes (TRANs). The $3.5 billion is to be used for Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) capital projects, implying roads and bridges, however the money can be used for multi-modal capital projects as well.

– $227.5 million per year or $4.55 billion is earmarked for counties and municipalities for transportation projects, again not restricted to roads and bridges.

– $97.5 million per year or $1.95 billion is earmarked for multimodal projects.

In adding up the numbers, that leaves $3.5 billion with no explanation of spending. And the language in HB17-1242 asks that these taxes not be subject to the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), Article X of the Colorado Constitution. If taxes collected from HB17-1242 are above projections, the transit czars, politicians and bureaucrats can keep our hard-earned dollars instead of returning the excess back to the people.

Our roads and bridges could certainly use a little love. However, politicians and bureaucrats have been shaving anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent out of the Highway User Tax Fund for subsidized projects such as trains, bike paths and walking paths for years while neglecting our roads and bridges.

The preliminary 2018 Colorado budget calls for $26.8 billion in spending. If politicians and bureaucrats would dedicate just 1 percent of the budget for our roads and bridges, Coloradoans could enjoy less road congestion, safer highways and faster mobility without a 21 percent ding in our wallets.

Kim Monson is co-host of “The Americhicks – Molly & Kim” on Salem Media’s 1690 AM, KDMT “Denver’s Money Talk” or livestream at americhicks.com. Monson is a former Lone Tree City Council councilwoman.

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