Colorado legislative leaders still seeking ways forward on transportation funding, rare common ground

The busy I-70 and I-25 interchange above a playground near Garden Place Elementary. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)globeville; highway; i-70; i70; i25; i-25; air quality; environment; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denver; colorado;
The busy I-70 and I-25 interchange above a playground near Garden Place Elementary. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) globeville; highway; i-70; i70; i25; i-25; air quality; environment; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denver; colorado;
The busy I-70 and I-25 interchange above a playground near Garden Place Elementary. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City) agreed on a lot last night at a Colorado Business Roundtable panel on Tuesday.

Both say that the transportation funding is a priority, the gas tax as it stands an untenable source of funding, and favor allowing local governments choice in how to spend any new money.

They also shared some silence and nervous chuckles when asked how they’d view the session as a whole if there was nothing to send out of the building about transportation funding. 

Gov. John Hickenlooper has said that more funding for transportation is a priority, even telling the state Legislature that he would like to review a proposal by the end of March.

In late January, the way to get more money to the state transportation network seemed to be some sort of tax increase, maybe a sales tax. Recently, the conversation has shifted towards possible bonds and reexamining existing money, a position favored by Grantham.

“How do we keep face with the Colorado taxpayer for all the money that they already give us and yet still have a priority for transportation?” he asked. “We want to look at the overall scheme, the 40,000-foot level of what our options are when it comes to revenues and how we use existing money versus new money.”

Because at the end of the day, it’ll have to go to the voters, Grantham pointed out. So while he’s optimistic, a funding solution will have to be “something that’s a creative alternative to the things we’ve heard discussed so far, it’ll have to if it’s going to pass muster. ”

Hickenlooper has expressed doubt that the new “revenue-neutral” options can fix transportation funding, but Duran said Tuesday that she will consider any options, so long as they are long-term.

“We’re open to offsets, open to the use of existing revenue. We want to continue to put all options on the table,” she said.

When confronted with the possibility that nothing happens in this session, in which a partisan split has slowed progress on many fronts, both sounded a determined note.

“If we don’t get [a measure] sent to the people, it depends on what transpired in between. I would rather that we have accomplished it, let’s put it that way,” Grantham said.

“It’s my focus to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to come up with a solution,” Duran said. “People are truly depending on us to do what’s right.”