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Sales-tax-for-transportation proposal introduced in state Legislature

Goal of generating $667 million annually

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A quartet of state lawmakers is responding to constant criticism about a lack of funding for needed transportation projects in Colorado.

The group, including Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City, introduced House Bill 17-1242 -- the Transportation Funding Bill -- before the House Transportation and Energy Committee on Thursday.

The bill would raise the state sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent -- an overall increase of 21 percent.

The increase would generate $667 million annually for 20 years, allow for $3.5 billion in bonds that could be used to borrow money for projects and provide $70 million each year for local government projects.

For the bill to become law, it must pass by a two-thirds margin in the House and Senate, and be approved by voters.

It's hoped that the involvement of legislative leadership, including Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran, will help the bill pass.

Many local officials declined to comment on the proposal Thursday, saying they want more time to study it.

Some legislative officials said the bill likely will undergo many changes before it comes to a vote.

Although tax increase proposals have been unpopular in Colorado, the Colorado Springs area has recent success with them.

In 2015, voters approved measure 2C, a sales tax increase to generate $250 million over five years for expanded street paving.  The project is now in its second year.

In 2004, several municipalities in El Paso County approved a sales tax increase, called the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Tax, to provide funds for local projects.

But with a current sales tax of 3.12 percent in Colorado Springs and 1.23 percent in El Paso County, a hike in the state sales tax may be more than people will accept.

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