Romer: Compromise should be celebrated
We live in an era in which compromise is often interpreted as weakness and where politicians are penalized at the next election if they extend across the aisle in bipartisan fashion. Our congressional districts, in which most seats are safe for one party or the other, reward candidates who appeal to the most uncompromising elements of their parties.
Political opponents are often cast as enemies; a winner-take-all environment treats compromise as surrender. The system has fostered a mindset that makes politics war by other means. This mindset is conducive to campaigning, but not to governing.
We are on the verge of what should be a great economic resurgence, and this resurgence can be fast-tracked with political compromise to address important issues. We need our elected officials to govern pragmatically to aid ongoing economic resiliency. There are some examples of this in Colorado, namely transportation, that can be duplicated on a national level.
The 73rd General Assembly has adjourned; the 2021 session was strongly influenced by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rebuilding of the Colorado economy as well as the blue wave of the November election. In total, over 600 bills were introduced, and major policy issues considered by the legislature included transportation funding, health care, fiscal policy, climate and the state budget.
The House introduced 330 bills, the second-lowest number of bills introduced in a session in that chamber in 10 years, while 293 bills were introduced in the Senate, representing the second-highest number of bills introduced in that chamber in the past decade. A significant number of bills introduced were a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to address Colorado’s recovery as well as provide vehicles for stimulus funding.
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The wide-sweeping impact of COVID-19 triggered the introduction of a legislative package to address the needs of struggling Coloradans. On March 10, Gov. Jared Polis and legislative leaders unveiled the Colorado Recovery Plan. This $800 million-plus stimulus package focused on five key areas: small businesses, broadband, families, rural Colorado, and workforce development.
Transportation has long been a topic of discussion and debate in Colorado. Over the past few years, we have seen a plethora of bills introduced at the Legislature, as well as at the ballot, that sought to take smaller bites of the apple to fund transportation, but nothing that represented a comprehensive measure in its totality.
After months and months of negotiations, and hundreds of stakeholder meetings, SB21-260 was introduced. Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder) and Sen. Faith Winter (D-Westminster) and Speaker of the House Alec Garnett (D-Denver) and Rep. Matt Gray (D-Broomfield), SB21-260 represents landmark legislation to make critical investments in transportation infrastructure. It received support from a broad coalition of business groups, transportation officials and environmental groups.
The bill will provide $5.268 billion in transportation funding to fix roads and bridges, improve transit options, meet Colorado’s climate goals, and future-proof the state’s transportation system. The funding will come from a mix of state, federal and user-fee revenue that reflects all of the uses of our transportation system. The bill creates nine new fees and four new enterprises that will generate nearly $3.8B through new user-fee revenue. Another nearly $1.5 billion will come from state general fund revenue and stimulus dollars.
It’s past time for Congress to duplicate Colorado’s efforts to invest in our transportation infrastructure. Fixing our highways, rebuilding our bridges, and upgrading our ports, airports and transit systems should have broad bipartisan support and is an issue where compromise from both parties should be celebrated.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.