Of course, Colorado residents want safer and better highways without a tax increase.
That is why backers of “Fix Our Damn Roads” collected nearly 15,000 more signatures than needed to get the measure on November’s ballot. Secretary of State Wayne Williams qualified the petitions Wednesday, sampling 5 percent of signatures to estimate a total of 112,872 valid signatures. The petition needed only 98,492 to qualify.
The measure authorizes bonds to immediately raise $3.5 billion, repaying them with existing revenues. It effectively forces the legislature and governor to prioritize the transportation crisis, which they have neglected for at least the past decade.
The measure specifies a list of projects prioritized by the Colorado Department of Transportation. It is a commonsense proposal most Coloradans are likely to embrace.
Meanwhile, we await the fate of an ill-conceived proposal that would stress the economy and do less to fix roads. The Denver Chamber of Commerce turned in petitions after Fix Our Damn Roads, seeking a completely unnecessary transportation tax increase. The chamber’s proposal had not qualified for the ballot as of late Wednesday.
In the likely event the tax increase makes the ballot, voters should soundly reject it. Passage imposes a 21 percent increase in the state sale tax, at a time when state government wallows in an annual billion-dollar revenue surplus likely to grow in coming years.
The tax increase divides revenues among highway projects, bicycle paths, transit amenities for Denver, and funds for special projects in qualifying municipalities. The tax increase would put the combined sales tax in Colorado Springs among the highest in the country.
With the passage of Fix Our Damn Roads, transportation improvements throughout the Pikes Peak Region will be substantial and swift. Not so with the tax increase, which stands to deprive metro Colorado Springs.
“Instead of $50 million, we’d get about $18 million for local roads,” says Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who supports Fix Our Damn Roads and opposes the tax hike.
There’s a reason Fix Our Damn Roads made the ballot first, with a healthy surplus of signatures. People like the idea of prioritizing transportation. Highways and bridges are a fundamental function of state government. For decades, state politicians have starved transportation in hopes voters would get so fed up with bad roads they would authorize new taxes. Everyone knows about this game, and few people like it.
A Magellan Strategies survey of likely voters found 73 percent support Fix Our Damn Roads.
Internal polling showed only 55-65 percent support a sales tax increase. Given the apparent lack of enthusiasm among backers of the tax proposal, don’t expect those numbers to improve. Supporters of Fix Our Damn Roads constantly reach out to The Gazette and other media organizations to report their progress and ask for support. They want the public to know what they are doing.
We have not heard a peep from the tax hike proponents, who began planning the proposal in secret meetings closed to the press and general public.
We need better highways, bridges and roads. We need them yesterday. We don’t need new taxes, in a state awash in revenue.
Spread the word about Fix Our Damn Roads in conversations and on social media platforms. Tell friends, neighbors, and colleagues about their ability to take control and demand overdue transportation repairs and improvements.
Some decisions will be difficult in November. This one is easy. Demand common sense. Cast a vote that tells state government to Fix Our Damn Roads.
The Gazette editorial board