DENVER (CBS4) – A conservative group is suing to put the brakes on a historic transportation funding bill. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on Thursday at the base of Floyd Hill, a notorious bottleneck along Interstate 70.
“Colorado, we’re fixing our roads,” the governor proclaimed. “We’re getting it done!”
The law is years in the making with input from dozens of interest groups and countless attorneys. It invests $5.3 billion in transportation projects over ten years.
“Today is the day our transportation system begins to become a reliable asset rather than an ongoing liability,” said Sen. Steve Fenberg, one of the main sponsors of the bill that is largely funded by fees.
The law includes a 2 cent per gallon fee on gas that goes up gradually to 8 cents, a 27 cent fee on ride share services like Uber and Lyft, and a 30 cent fee on delivery services like Amazon and Grub Hub. There are also fees on electric vehicles and car rentals.
In all, the law includes nearly $4 billion in new fees. Most of the money, $2.7 billion, goes to roads and bridges. There are also millions of dollars for air pollution mitigation, electric vehicle subsidies, buses, and bike lanes.
“We have set Colorado up for success not just for this year, but for years and years to come,” said Sen. Faith Winter, another bill sponsor.
Michael Fields with the conservative nonprofit Colorado Rising is suing to stop the law.
“Voters have been clear time and time again, including last year, where they said big taxes and big fees that they want to vote on it. So they’re really going around voters,” Fields said.
He says the law violates the Taxpayer Bill of Rights by allowing the state to keep $225 million each year that would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers. He says it’s also an end-run around Proposition 117, which requires voter approval for new fees over $100 million. The law splits the fees into five enterprises so collectively they don’t cross the threshold.
“We worked with some of the best legal minds in the state. This is legally sound, this what the Colorado voters wanted us to do,” said Speaker of the House Alec Garnett, who also sponsored the bill.
Fields disagrees, “They’re really saying ‘You know what, we think we have a permanent majority in legislature, we think we’re going to win our election no matter what we do and voters don’t care enough about this enough to hold us accountable’ and I disagree.”
Another conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, is working on a ballot measure to lower the gas tax and cancel out the gas fee. The fees don’t kick in until 2024.