Freed from re-election worries, Gov. Bill Ritter came to Colorado Springs Tuesday to talk tough on the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Speaking to a convention of the cement and concrete industry at The Broadmoor hotel, Ritter said the TABOR amendment approved by voters in 1992 could leave the state’s roads, bridges and water systems crumbling even as the economy bounces back from recession.
TABOR requires a public vote on tax increases, which Ritter said has left the state General Assembly with little power to raise cash for important projects. He noted that the state’s 22-cent per gallon gasoline tax used for roads hasn’t climbed by a penny in 18 years.
Ritter worked in 2009 to pay for more road work with increases in vehicle registration fees.
“There are many people whose election could turn on the fact that we passed a fee to build out infrastructure,” Ritter said.
But event with the money from the fee increase and federal stimulus cash, Ritter said the state has more than $1 billion in needed work that is being ignored because of money.
“As we move forward as a state we need to re-examine TABOR,” Ritter said after his speech.
While the state’s anti-tax climate hasn’t change, Ritter’s ability to challenge that climate has seen an substantial overhaul since he dumped his re-election bid earlier this year.
Ritter said his top priority in 2010 is defeating a string of ballot measures. Amendment 61 would bar the state from borrowing money for projects, Proposition 101 would drastically cut vehicle registration fees and Amendment 60 would cut property taxes.
“Those kinds of things would devastate this state’s ability to build out its infrastructure,” he said.
But whether it is getting construction cash, beating the ballot measures or changing TABOR, Ritter admits politicians have a lot of work to do. Public trust in government is at a low point, he said, leaving voters less willing to back government improvement plans.
“We need to have a different and better conversation with the people of America,” he said.