Area lawmakers react to transportation bill’s death

Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — State lawmakers who co-sponsored a bill that could have injected billions of dollars into transportation shared their frustrations after the bill failed to pass committee on Tuesday.

“As you can imagine, I was very disappointed,” said State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat. “All of us had hoped … that at least one (Republican) member of the Senate Finance Committee could vote ‘yes’ and move it onto the floor.”

The two Democratic committee members voted in favor of the bill. The three Republican members were fundamentally against raising taxes.

Highway work

If House Bill 1242 had made it through committee, then the Senate would have taken a vote to decide whether to put the issue on the November ballot.

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Voters would have been asked whether to approve raising the state’s sales tax by 0.5 percent.

The revenue would have paid for $3.5 billion in bonds through a 20-year period for projects identified as being the highest priority. That includes work on Interstate 25 and the Interstate 70 mountain corridor, U.S. Highway 40 and State Highway 13 between Rifle and Craig.

An additional $144 million per year would have gone to municipalities and another $144 million would have gone to counties.

The remaining dollars would have gone toward grants to support such things as para-transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

The bill had bipartisan support in the House.

Good outweighed the bad

Another bill sponsor, State Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a Republican, whose district includes Summit and Grand counties, has butted heads with Mitsch Bush on past transportation bills.

“No one said this was a perfect solution or that it would have been an easy, slam-dunk sell to voters, but I believe the good in this proposal outweighed the bad and that acting now is far better than continually kicking this can down the road, while the backlog of neglected road work grows worse,” Baumgardner said in a statement.

Senate President Kevin Grantham also issued a statement: “The 71st General Assembly won’t complete its work until (May 10), so we’ll keep working on the issue, through this session and next, unless something is put on the ballot in the meantime that can win voter support. While I’m disappointed by this particular vote, I remain confident that the work we did on this issue won’t go to waste and will move us closer than we were before to the fix we all seek.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter at @SBTStensland

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