Editorial: Digging for more road money | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Digging for more road money

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

Colorado legislators and Gov. Bill Ritter have spent much of this year pondering and proposing ways to bring more money into the state treasury. Why they’d embark on this path during an election year, and in an economic slowdown, too, can only be described as baffling.

The latest state leader to leap into the mystery is Rep. Joe Rice, a Littleton Democrat. With the end of this year’s legislative session looming, Rice has proposed a set of fee increases for Colorado drivers with the intent of raising more money for the state’s highway system.

This is how the bill would work:

Everyone will pay $25 to register their car. Car owners also will pay an additional fee based on their vehicle’s age, sales price and weight. Those who already pay below $75 to register their cars will keep paying the amount they pay now plus the $25 universal registration fee.

So if you own an older car, and pay the state’s current minimum fee of $3, you will continue to pay that amount ” plus the $25 fee.

Those who already pay more than $75 to register their cars ” typically owners of newer vehicles ” will continue to see their registration fees drop over time. However, their fees will bottom out at $75 a year.

We’ll be the first to acknowledge Colorado’s roads need work, and lots of it. The money available from the gasoline tax is actually decreasing every year, since people are buying less gas as they get behind the wheels of more efficient cars. Inflation is eating away at the funds, too, since the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1992 or so.

We don’t like the idea of raising fees ” at least not in the current environment.

We also have to wonder again what in the world happened to all the money raised when voters in 2005 approved Referendum C. That measure temporarily exempted the state from issuing tax refunds when collections exceeded the limits imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, amendment to the constitution.

When supporters were campaigning for it, Referendum C was supposed to give the state an additional $3.8 billion over five years. The estimated collections have now soared past $5 billion. That’s a lot of money. And still we remain in a budget “crisis.”

We’ve mentioned this before, but until state officials account publicly for every penny of the Referendum C money, we’re going to be skeptical, at best, whenever the pols in Denver tells us they need still more.

An earlier version of this editorial inaccurately stated that Rice’s bill would hit owners of older cars the most.

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