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Local drivers comment on proposed statewide sales tax increase

Money to be used for transportation projects

Local drivers comment on proposed...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Mayor John Suthers said he doesn't want to do away with the city's expanded paving project because of a potential conflict with House Bill 1242 now under consideration in the state legislature.

"It's a bad deal for Colorado Springs," he said.  "If (the) bill passes, Colorado Springs would not be able to opt out and the city would have to determine if it would continue the 2C sales tax."

City voters approved measure 2C in November 2015 to raise the sales tax and generate $250 million over five years for street paving.

Bill 1242 would likewise raise the sales tax statewide and generate around $700 million annually for transportation projects.  A majority of lawmakers, and the approval of voters, are necessary for the bill's passage.

Suthers doesn't support the bill because he believes not enough of the revenue would be designated for major improvements along Interstates 25 and 70.

"And half of that money, instead of going to state highways, would come back to the local governments in a Christmas tree format," he said.  "You get money for transit, bike trails and your transportation system."

Suthers said under that arrangement, the city would receive only $18 million annually for transportation -- far less than the $50 million in each of the five years of 2C.

Another factor, Suthers said, is the TABOR amendment, known as the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights.  It requires voters to approve the spending of any unbudgeted city revenue.

"Every year, we'd have to ask our voters to accept any of the money (from Bill 1242)," he said.

In addition to 2C, city voters -- along with those in several neighboring municipalities -- approved the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority sales tax in 2004 for priority transportation needs.

Perhaps that's why many voters said they're less worried about another tax increase and more concerned about where the money would be spent.

"I do agree that I-70 and I-25 are important, and everybody uses them," Dustin Rose said.  "But if we've already allocated $50 million here, let's use (it) here."

"I don't mind paying more in sales tax for the state," Peggy Norman said.  "We need better roads.  I travel I-25 a hundred miles a day."

"I-25 seems to be getting a lot of attention right now, throughout the state," Larry Hodge said.  "But I don't have a preference."

The legislative session ends May 10.


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