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Governor supports statewide tax increase for road improvements

Colorado has $1 billion annual funding shortfall

Governor calls for tax increase to...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The final year of a term might seem to be an interesting time for a state's governor to recommend a tax increase for transportation.

But that's what Colorado's John Hickenlooper is doing this week.

The governor suggested a tax increase during a speech Tuesday to county commissioners at an annual conference in Colorado Springs.

With Colorado facing a $1 billion shortfall each year in funding for road construction and maintenance, Hickenlooper said the state's failure to properly maintain its infrastructure will ultimately slow its current economic growth.

"Look at a neighboring state like Utah," he said.  "It has among the best roads but is taxed more than we are.  They've raised their gas tax twice since we last raised ours and they have a sales tax dedicated to transportation."

Hickenlooper said Colorado shouldn't try to match Utah dollar for dollar.

"But we're going to need some modest increase," he said.  "I don't think it's going to be as big as some people are saying."

The governor said getting a tax increase passed by the Legislature and voters would be one of the biggest accomplishments of his administration.

State Sen. Michael Merrifield, (D) Colorado Springs, said he's glad Hickenlooper wants a tax but wishes he had suggested it sooner.

"I think we can get something passed in the next session," Merrifield said.  "I don't know what kind of a tax it would be.  It could be a sales tax, raising the gas tax, the mileage fee that CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) is testing out, or a combination of those."

On a local level, voters recently have bucked the state's perception as an anti-tax state and passed ballot questions to finance road projects.

"We've shown that when there's a priority need, like widening Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, we can find the money for it, although we're not all the way there yet," said Michelle Peulen, a CDOT spokeswoman.

The question is whether voters will approve a statewide tax for statewide transportation needs.

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