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GOP serves up counter-offer to Colorado Dems’ road repair plan

Ed Sealover
Rocky Mountain News
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Republicans have put forth a counter-offer to a Democrat-proposed fee increase for Colorado roads that would use severance tax revenues for highway repairs and would cut the business personal property tax as well.

Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Joe Rice, the Democratic sponsors of the road-funding plan that will get its initial committee hearing this afternoon, said the Republican proposal would raise only $100 million to $150 million annually — which in their opinion is not enough money for Colorado’s needs. However, they said all of its elements remain up for discussion as the bill moves forward.

GOP leaders have said since the transportation bill was floated two weeks ago that provisions such as its high fees and proposed study on alternative funding methods like a vehicle-miles-travelled fee are unacceptable. But it wasn’t until Monday night that they presented a written alternative plan.



In four hours of negotiations with Rice, Gibbs and Gov. Bill Ritter over the past two days, Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry and House Minority Leader Mike May pitched a package that would eliminate the alternative funding study and the provision in Gibbs’ bill that could allow for more tolling.

They also asked for a reduction in the increase in vehicle registration fees ” most drivers would pay $32 in the first year under the bill ” and dedication of roughly three times the amount of severance tax money that now goes to roads.



Penry and May had discussed all of those concepts before, but the new piece they brought to the table involved a companion bill that would phase out taxes that businesses pay on equipment. This would serve as a carrot for businesses and would use the discussion to push forward comprehensive tax reform, the Republican leaders said.

“We’re going to drive a hard bargain. We’re going for big, systemic tax reform that looks out beyond the end of our nose,” Penry of Grand Junction said. “The Democrats need some support on this, and we’re not going to give it to them willy-nilly.”

Because Democrats didn’t immediately jump on board, Penry and May said their caucus can’t back the bill in its current form.



But Gibbs and Rice insisted that negotiations will continue.

The GOP proposal would raise up to $150 million a year, and Rice said that was its biggest problem. The Dems’ bill would raise about $265 million in its second year and could create between 8,000 and 10,000 jobs.

Gibbs said he does not expect any of the Republican proposals to become part of the bill when it hits committee this afternoon but is willing to reduce fees or even take out parts of the bill, such as the alternative funding study, and run them as separate measures. He will continue to evaluate the new proposal, he said.

“Everything’s negotiable,” the Silverthorne Democrat said. “My goal is to come up with money ” and immediately 200 to 250 million dollars ” and if we can reach that goal and have a bipartisan plan, that’s great.”

The committee hearing is scheduled for sometime after 1:30 p.m. today.


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