Fee hike may fuel Colorado road fixes | VailDaily.com

Fee hike may fuel Colorado road fixes

John Ingold
The Denver Post

Many Coloradans could see their annual state vehicle-registration fee more than double if a major transportation-funding proposal making its way through the state Capitol becomes law.

Currently, the state registration fee for a typical vehicle in Colorado is about $26, ranking the state 33rd in the nation for state fees, according to the Federal Highway Administration. A plan known as FASTER from statehouse Democrats would raise the registration fee on a typical vehicle by $41 over two years to pay for road and bridge repairs, putting Colorado in the top 10 for state fees, according to the federal numbers.

The data give fuel to Capitol Republicans’ fiery rhetoric that the fee increases in the bill are too high.

“We need to

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start focusing on what the transportation package is going to cost average Colorado families,” said state Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial. “A lot of people have skipped over the fact that adding $82 on the average (two-car) family is a real hardship.”

But the data are also in need of context, Democrats say.

State licensing fees make up but one component of the total annual registration bill for vehicle owners. Taxes, which go to local governments and vary based on the age and value of a vehicle, can be orders of magnitude greater than the state fee.

Take, for instance, the case of two vehicles highlighted in a report the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Council prepared for Balmer.

The report found that taxes and fees on a 10-year-old Toyota Camry currently amount to about $28 a year and would increase to $69 a year under the FASTER proposal. The fee increase would account for nearly 60 percent of the new annual registration cost.

But the fee increase would be a mere blip in the annual registration cost for a new Cadillac Escalade, which would see its total bill jump from $1,187 to $1,238. (Because of the vehicle’s nearly 3-ton weight, the increase in state fees under FASTER would be $10 greater than the standard $41.)

State Rep. Joe Rice, a Littleton Democrat who is FASTER’s House sponsor, said you also have to factor in how much Coloradans pay in state gas tax ” at 22 cents per gallon, in the middle of the pack nationwide ” as well as other taxes.

“We’re 46th-lowest in all state and local taxes,” Rice said. “I think you have to look at everything in total.”

FASTER, officially Senate Bill 108, aims to generate about $250 million a year through various fee increases. It would use that new revenue stream to secure $500 million in bonds to fix 126 of Colorado’s structurally deficient bridges.

The measure already passed the state Senate and is scheduled for its first House committee hearing Tuesday.

Debate over the bill has so far broken mostly along party lines ” though two Democrats opposed it in the Senate. Rep. Frank McNulty, a Highlands Ranch Republican who sits on the House transportation committee, gave little indication Friday that things would be different in the House. He said Republicans, once willing to negotiate on the fee increases, have become increasingly opposed to any increase.

“The bill that we have in the House doesn’t work,” he said.

Rice said he is still happy to listen to all ideas, but he said Republicans have to come up with more concrete ways to get new transportation money this year.

“We can negotiate how we get there,” Rice said. “We can’t negotiate whether we need to get there. You have to come up with a plan of how to get there.”

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