The state must find a funding source for transportation needs.
What we think:
A sales tax is not the answer, but a specific ownership tax for vehicles might raise the needed money.
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The Colorado General Assembly left some unfinished business on the table when the lawmakers adjourned their 2017 session: How to pay for much-needed transportation repairs and upgrades across the state.
Legislators managed to allocate some money for transportation — which local business officials say is promising — but current funding doesn’t cover the state’s $9 billion backlog of infrastructure needs nor the expansion required to accommodate a swiftly growing population along the Front Range.
While Gov. John Hickenlooper has not yet decided whether to call a special session (as of the Business Journal’s press time) to deal with transportation, there are ways to pay for statewide needs without raising the sales tax.
Instead, the state should look at funding roads through the specific ownership tax for vehicles. Under current state funding, fees for registering cars and trucks take two things into consideration: the purchase price of the vehicle and the year it was registered. Under current rules, fees are adjusted down every year until the car has been registered in the state for 10 years. After that, the state charges a flat fee of $3 for passenger cars. Changing the funding structure to keep it level in years eight and nine could bring in an additional $150 million annually for transportation needs, some business experts say.
The state could also decide to assess a transfer tax for cars newly registered in Colorado, but purchased in another state. Thanks to a rapidly growing population, a transfer tax could bring in between $100 million and $150 million every year to be used solely for transportation needs across the state.
A sales tax isn’t the answer. With an additional sales tax levied by the state, Colorado Springs would have the highest rate in the state. Additional local taxes could threaten business retention and new company recruitment. Tourism could suffer; small businesses could wither.
Springs’ voters took care of our road problems through Issue 2C, which increased sales taxes by .62 of a cent. The city shouldn’t have to pay more sales taxes to the state to help other cities that won’t handle their own road problems. Requiring Colorado Springs to subsidize infrastructure and road improvements at the expense of its own business development is an unfair and unnecessary burden on businesses.
Assessing taxes for automobiles throughout the state provides a steady source of money for transportation needs. It could be the answer to expanding Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, as well as between Denver and Fort Collins. It could also provide much-needed funding for Interstate 70, the main corridor into the mountains.
The state needs to find a solution soon. Construction costs are on the rise, roads are getting increasingly crowded and damaged, and tempers are growing ever shorter on the state’s interstate highway system.
It’s time to take action and it’s past time to address transportation problems that impede business, cause traffic jams and make the state less attractive for both companies and tourists.