DENVER (AP) — Saying Colorado lawmakers didn’t do nearly enough to pay for highway upgrades, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper threatened Thursday to call lawmakers back to Denver to take another crack at the issue.
Hickenlooper’s warning came hours after lawmakers concluded their annual session with modest advancements on road funding, energy and health care.
“I did tell several people … they probably shouldn’t make any vacation plans for May,” said Hickenlooper, who has the power to force the state’s 100 lawmakers to return to work in a special session.
He said he would decide by Monday whether to call a special session.
Hickenlooper called the legislative session productive, but he criticized lawmakers’ inability to come up with more money for roads — the centerpiece topic of the 2017 term.
Colorado has an estimated $9 billion backlog of infrastructure projects, but lawmakers could not agree on a plan to pay for upgrades with a sales-tax hike.
The resulting transportation deal allocated $1.8 billion — an amount that includes mortgaging state buildings.
“We’re not even going to have enough money to fix (Interstate) 25 north and south and I-70, let alone all the projects that have been identified all over the state,” Hickenlooper said.
The comments appeared to take lawmakers by surprise.
Colorado has a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, and lawmakers seemed pleased with the progress they made this year.
In addition to the transportation plan, lawmakers agreed to:
— Divert a half-billion dollars to hospitals;
— Raise recreational marijuana taxes to 15 percent, up from 10 percent, and use the money to pay for tax breaks to businesses;
— Increase education spending by about $242 per pupil;
— Enact new criminal penalties for teenagers who exchange explicit photos electronically, giving prosecutors new options for punishing kids without charging them with felony child exploitation;
— Limit home marijuana growers to 12 plants per residence, down from the current limit of 99 plants.
Legislative leaders talked up the accomplishments Thursday.
“We only got part of the way to what we’d like. But you have to work together. We got some measure of victory,” said Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham.
By JAMES ANDERSON and KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
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