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Less driving during COVID means less money for CDOT

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People had less have to replenish on the pump during COVID, so the Colorado Dept. of Transportation is missing funding it usually expects. What’s the repair?

DENVER — It’s a Catch-22.

Work from dwelling means fewer automobiles on the highway, resulting in less site visitors.

Fewer automobiles on the highway means less have to replenish on the pump.

Less have to replenish on the pump means the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is missing funding it usually expects.

Because of the pandemic, leading to modifications to work conduct and delayed car registrations, CDOT reported a shortfall of $33.7 million within the fiscal 12 months ending in June 2020.

Taking under consideration three price range cycles from July 2019 to June 2022, CDOT anticipates being quick $117 million.

“We’re trying to future proof the system by, both, getting some short-term revenue in the door, but also building a new revenue structure that does not degrade like the gas tax does,” mentioned State Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield.

Gray is likely one of the high Democrats on the House Transportation & Local Government Committee. He has labored on highway funding options with State Sen. Faith Winter (D-Westminster), chair of the Senate Transportation & Energy Committee, for years.

“We hit, today, 51 meetings,” mentioned Winter.

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The two have held dozens of stakeholder conferences. Among Tuesday’s Zoom conferences had been discussions with engineers and environmentalists.

“We have not had a single stakeholder meeting where people say I’m not willing to pay a little bit more,” mentioned Gray.

What are they engaged on? And who would pay extra and the way far more?

“Delivery,” mentioned Winter. “Uber and Lyft and rideshares and car-sharing and rental cars.”

All these industries may face a brand new charge for their companies, which might go on to highway tasks.

“Every time an Amazon package gets delivered to my house, every time Grubhub gets delivered to my house, I rely on good roads,” mentioned Winter. “You’re paying for the roads that bring you your service.”

“If you’re going to charge more for an Uber ride or a Lyft ride or an iPhone or an iPad, the consumer has to pay that, so that becomes a tax on that consumer,” mentioned State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction). “You get into that argument is a charge a tax or a tax a charge? And, clearly, folks use inventive language with a charge as a result of they do not need to discuss TABOR as a result of TABOR requires the voters to approve it.

TABOR, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, requires a vote on all tax will increase.

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“I’ve spoken to the governor and the governor has said he doesn’t want anything on the ballot. I understand that because the last five attempts or four attempts, the voters have said no,” mentioned Scott.

Most just lately, voters rejected three highway funding poll points.

In 2019, 54% voted towards Proposition CC, which might have used TABOR refund money for highway tasks as an alternative of being refunded again to residents.

Two poll points had been rejected in 2018.

Proposition 109 would have funded particular tasks by permitting the state to borrow money.

Proposition 110 would have raised the state gross sales tax for highway funding.

Both failed with about 60% voting towards.

“It stinks. We’ve never got it right. Whether it be legislatively or on the ballot, we just can’t seem to get it right,” mentioned Scott.

Scott believes there may be money to be discovered, maybe not all of the money vital, however sufficient of it, with extra intense scrutiny of CDOT’s checkbook.

“I’m one of those people that says there’s always efficiency you can find in government,” mentioned Scott. “Trust me when I tell you that there are efficiencies that can be found, and get some more dollars on the roads, because quite frankly, that’s where all Coloradans want the money. Just put it on the roads and the bridges.”

Another concept being thought of by Winter and Gray is a charge everybody pays, no matter trade.

“Also the users of the road through a gas fee,” mentioned Winter.

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A fuel charge could be an added charge each driver pays on the pump, on high of state and federal gasoline taxes. Fees do not require the vote of the folks, like tax will increase do.

“It makes it a difficult discussion when we’re trying to come up with efficiency and accountability ideas, but yet the Democrats come out with an immediate fee again,” mentioned Scott.

How a lot would any of those charges price? The ones on the fuel pump or for supply companies?

“We have not put out numbers to anyone. What we’ve been doing right now is listening,” mentioned Gray. “This is not us trying to figure out how we’re going to make it through the next year or two years, hopefully when we’re back to normal, this is about the next 50 years. This is about the next 100 years.”

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