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February 5, 2009 9:46 AM

Faster bill officially through Senate

Following a long day of debate Wednesday, the Senate voted 19-16 Thursday morning to give final approval to the most far-reaching transportation-funding bill the legislature has considered in years.

Two Democrats who had opposed a provision that allows for increased tolling - Sen. Morgan Carroll of Aurora and Lois Tochtrop of Thornton - joined with Republicans in voting against Senate Bill 108, known as the "Faster" bill.

The measure, if passed through the House and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter, would increase vehicle-registration fees for most drivers $41 a year by 2011 to raise some $265 million for road and bridge repairs. It also would study the possibility of tolling existing roads.

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, warned that he expects the fees to be challenged in court as an unconstitutional tax hike, much like a 2007 bill that froze falling property-tax rates was.

"This bill represents yet another step in the majority's march through (the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights) to knock down its fiscal restraints," Mitchell said. "This bill will be challenged, and if the Supreme Court upholds its oath, it will be stricken."

The latter line drew laughs from several Republicans, who have complained that the court has made a slew of recent decisions based on its left-leaning political bent rather than on legal precedent.

Sponsoring Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, tried to emphasized the positive qualities of the bill and the areas of agreement between the two parties. He noted a bipartisan move Wednesday to strip a pilot study on a vehicle-miles-travelled fee from the bill and said that both Republicans and Democrats want to fix bridges and grow jobs.

"Forty-seven thousand jobs were lost last year. We have over a 6 percent unemployment rate," Gibbs said, emphasizing that the bill could create some 10,000 jobs. "We have a great opportunity to do something good for all Coloradans today."



Discussion

  • February 5, 2009

    12:03 PM

    Elwood writes:

    How many of those jobs will be government jobs?

  • February 5, 2009

    4:28 PM

    Donald Brashears writes:

    I agree with the Senators that voted against this bill. Our legislators have forgotten who it was that put them in office and what they campaigned on. Raising money through an increase in vehicle registration fees without voter approval is the same as pushing tax increases without a vote of any kind. The issue of tolling existing highways is in my opinion a no-brainer. Tolls are taxes period. The sad part is that everyone will see an increase in just about every area, from food to fuel. The transportation industry is already operating on extremely thin margins. This result of tolls is an increase in their operating expenses that will be passed on to every citizen by an increasing their rates. It all filters down eventually. Look at E470 from the North to the South. Current rates for big truck is over $31 one way. You might note that a small percentage of the traffic is big trucks. Companies just can not afford it. Why do something that may appear to be the pot of cash but actually will be a detriment to everyone. Not to mention restrict the ability to travel based on a persons ability to pay a toll on a road they already paid for. Here is a novel idea, use the money slated for the roads and transportation in that area instead of pushing into the "General Fund".

  • February 17, 2009

    11:32 PM

    Lawrence W. Powell writes:

    Just as most State bureaus tasked with registration of professinals are limited to charging fees only to the extent of meeting costs so they are not a burden to the taxpayers at large, the Motor Vehicle Department should only charge those fees it needs to fund their operation. Any money raised in excess of their needs is a tax on the people, and not authorized. The existing State tax on fuel is the logical source of funding for roads and bridges, and citizens believe that all of that tax is used for that purpose. Is it? If so, and if our esteemed Governor can make the case of the need to spend more money, the citizens might vote for it.

  • December 24, 2009

    8:51 PM

    Dana K writes:

    How the Grinch stole Christmas

    There is a grinch among us, or more accurately a grinch leader and several other grinches in our state government. It seems their main goal is to take away from the citizens, by any means possible, our hard earned money and leave us with little or nothing to show for it. I am speaking primarily about the 09-108 state senate bill that was sponsored by Gibbs and Rice and voted into law by our Governor Bill Ritter. I have read the entire SB 108 from beginning to end. I have read so many posts on the Internet concerning this bill that I have lost count. Most are from those like my wife and I who feel this was (and is) an ill conceived plan to basically pick our pockets - legally. I am not going to get into the semantics of what is a fee and what is a tax. As far as I can tell, anytime fees or taxes are raised by 200% to 300% on anything, it is quite a bitter pill to swallow.

    Now for the grinchy part - How about the way this was done? If ever there was a way to make an end run around the TABOR amendment, this was it. No ballot or vote, by the taxpaying citizens it affects. In the beginning of this senate bill, it explains why the roads and bridges have fallen into such a state of disrepair. To cut right to it, according to the bill, it basically comes down to a shortage of revenue due to less taxes being collected on gasoline primarily because vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient. This is where a couple of questions might be asked. First, where was all of the money spent before the economy took a nose dive and people were driving a lot more and in not so fuel efficient vehicles? Second, where is all of the money (stimulus) proposed by Barack Obama that was supposed to go to roads and infrastructure, specifically in the state of Colorado? 403.9 million dollars went to Colorado according to the Denver Business Journal for transportation alone (not including the 103.5 million for mass transit)

    According to FASTER (Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation & Economic Recovery - the name this bill was given) statistics, 40% of the roads in Colorado are in need of attention (I have seen numbers lower than that, like 29% on roads for example) and 125 bridges are deemed deficient. According to RITA’s (Research and Innovative Technology Administration) statistics, there are 122 deficient bridges in Colorado. Whether 40% or 29% on roads, 125 or 122 on bridges, the numbers are not that far apart. I am not a bridge or road engineer, so I cannot speak to the severity of the condition of said bridges or roads. Assuming they are all in such a state of deficiency, the question bears repeating. Where was all of the money spent? I have seen very high numbers that are hard to believe that the state collects from gasoline taxes every year. Are none of the roads and bridges being fixed with all of this money?
    To those who are writing that the monies collected by the state for the FASTER improvements, and the fact that they may not be spent on deficient roads and bridges, I encourage you to poke around on the Internet, and read how much money the State of Colorado is receiving from the federal stimulus funds. The money amounts are staggering and run the gamut from jobs to education and everything else including social services as well. This of course on top of the money the State already has to work with.

    Now to speak to how our Christmas (economically speaking) was stolen by this bill. We (my wife and I) have 2 cars, a pickup truck, a motor home, a boat trailer, a utility trailer and 2 motorcycles. Before you get the idea we are rich and must have money to burn, we do not. The newest vehicle is a car and is a 1997 with 125K miles on it. The next is a 1995 car and the pickup is a 1985. The oldest is a 1966 restored motor home (over 200K miles) which is probably worth less than $10K in today’s economy. The boat is a 1979 16’ Glastron (hence the trailer). The utility trailer is home-made and was built in 1993. The motorcycles are a 1977 Kawasaki 650 and a 1972 Kawasaki 100. ALL of the above vehicles are in very good condition, and always pass emission tests when tested. So far (as of today 12-24-09) between 1 car, the truck and the boat trailer, we have paid $86.50 for these 3 vehicles. Once the other registrations come due (between now and July 2010) there will be an additional $139.00 required to pay on the other car, the other trailer, the 2 motorcycles and the motor home. This brings the yearly total to $225.50. Please keep in mind, these fees (taxes) are on top of the fees already paid. All of the fees have about doubled the previous fees. One fee (the home made trailer) will triple. As if it matters, the boat trailer has not seen the pavement since November of 2007 (I never even affixed the 2009 renewal sticker) The motor home the same, but I did drive it 35 miles this spring once the gas was replaced with new. The utility trailer is used about every other month, and we store one of the cars 6 months at a time. Suffice to say, two thirds of the vehicles we pay these added fees on, are rarely driven or used. Another thought, these fees are for the year 2009-2010. Once the fees top out at the maximum level in July of 2011, the total added fees will be $290.00! That’s $290.00 per year added to the current base fees already charged.

    My wife is 52 years old and is a native. I am 52 as well and have lived here since 1971. We have been married 32 years. In all my 38 years of living in Colorado, I have never seen anything like this percentage of cost hike to our registration fees. Of course or Governor and his group anticipated the backlash from this fee hike because one month prior to the SB 108 going into effect, a $25 to $100 late fee (fine) went into effect. I read now where there are armed officers guarding the motor vehicle department workers from irate citizens registering their vehicles in person. No wonder.

    There is help on the horizon, however. 140,000 plus signatures were gathered to place initiative #10 (which became proposition #101) on the November 2010 ballot. We have Freda Poundstone and Jeff Gross to thank for circulating the petitions and presenting them to the state. From what I can see, the proposed $10 per vehicle TOTAL registration fee will be a welcome change to the skyrocketing fees and taxes we have seen as of late (There are other previous fees and raised taxes this administration has passed through in much the same way as the FASTER bill was) I am disappointed to see that an income tax reduction and telecommunication reduction was added to this proposition. I don’t feel the added taxes to phone bill are fair, so that proposal seems reasonable, but have not researched the proposed income tax reduction, so I don’t know how I stand on that issue. I really don’t like it when I see multiple issues added in the single proposal. It’s too easy for the one great idea (the fair vehicle registration fee proposal) to get lost in the process of the voting.

    I encourage all who read this to do some research on your own. Our Governor (in response to this proposal and to #60 and #61 as well) is trying to close a 1 billion dollar gap in the budget. WOW!
    He is quoted as saying these new propositions are dangerous for the state.

    The bottom line is this. When the economy is doing great, the slight increases in taxes (like in property taxes when the house values rise) is not a problem for the average Joe or the counties or the state for that matter. Everyone is happy. Of course if the economy tanks, then those who have not spent our money wisely up until that point, are more than happy to do whatever it takes to take advantage of those who can least afford it. Make no mistake. SB 108 was and is a bad idea, even if the economy was doing well. It places a large burden on those who can least afford it, plain and simple. The Governor and those elected officials who refuse to live within a budget are far too quick to transfer their burden to us, and then we have to find new ways to budget the unfair increases on our end.

    On this Christmas Eve and tomorrow on Christmas day, we are not exchanging Christmas gifts between the two of us this year. We will be paying what we normally spend on each other to the Governor instead. I am self employed and work has been so slow, that these fees are the difference between gifts and no gifts for my wife and I. Of course we will be giving to family, friends and neighbors this year just the same. No change there. We will celebrate the birth of or Lord Jesus Christ tomorrow, the greatest gift of all!

    Thank you for reading and God Bless!
    Dana and Marilyn

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