DENVER (CBS4) – Billions of dollars in new fees may be the answer to fixing Colorado’s roads.
A draft of a bill by Democrats in the state legislature includes about $3.9 billion in new fees and $1.5 billion in general fund and stimulus dollars.
Everyone who uses the roads pays under the bill which includes a 2 cent fee on gas and diesel starting in 2022 that increases to 8 cents by 2028. The fee is on top of the current gas tax.
There’s also a delivery service fee of 27 cents for anything you pay sales tax on, from pizza to Amazon purchases and FedEx deliveries.
If you use ride share services like Uber and Lyft, you would pay a 30 cent fee. There’s also a car rental fee and electric vehicle owners would pay a registration fee equal to what gas-powered vehicles pay in registration and gas fees.
“We need to make sure everyone is paying their fair share and we get something in return for it and that’s what a fee is,” said Sen. Steve Fenberg, sponsor of the bill, which is almost 200 pages long. It invests more than $5 billion over the next 11 years in roads, bridges and also many green transportation projects.
“This is an historic investment in multimodal transportation, an historic investment in roads and bridges over 11 years. We’re finally fixing I-70. We’re finally fixing the Eisenhower Tunnel,” said Fenberg.
Most of the money – $2.7 billion – goes to roads and bridges. There’s $734 million to incentivize the purchase of electric cars, buses and charging stations. The remainder of the money goes to multimodal projects, air pollution mitigation and Front Range rail service.
“It’s like a feeding frenzy down here with all the dollars going around, and we can’t find money for transportation,” said Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer who opposes the bill. “We have to go out and ask for a tax or fee whichever you want to call it?”
She says the bill is an end-run around the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which requires lawmakers go to voters for tax increases.
“It’s just incredible that they’re so blatantly arrogant that they circumvent the public in this manner.”
The bill could also run afoul of Proposition 117, which requires voter approval for new enterprises that control more than $100 million in fees a year. The bill spreads the money over five enterprises – or entities that manage the money – so none cross the threshold.
“They’re definitely doing what I call legislative gymnastics to get this through and find loopholes,” said Michael Fields. He wrote Proposition 117 and anticipated lawmakers using multiple enterprises to circumvent it, so he added language to say if enterprises serve the same purpose, they count as one.
“If they do it with this, they’ll do it with something else and something else.”
Fenberg is confident the bill will hold up in court.
“The enterprises serve different purposes, and we know when we ask voters what their number one concerns, transportation is right at the top. We’re talking about a penny a gallon. It is pretty insignificant compared to the benefits that they will get.”
Under the bill, the fees would index each year to inflation and the enterprises that manage the fees could also adjust them at any point.
The bill has broad support in the business community, but is all but certain to face a legal challenge. Opponents are also promising a ballot measure that would allow voters to reduce the gas fee.