Kafer: I’m beginning to believe Democrats want Colorado’s drivers to be miserable
Deep within the bowels of Denver International Airport the Illuminati gather for their secret meetings. A bloodthirsty Chupacabra stalks sleeping cattle in the San Luis Valley to gorge upon their entrails. Aliens or government spy drones or both wander the night sky in northeastern Colorado. Centennial State conspiracy theories abound, but I’ve never given them credence. And yet, while languishing in the daily bottleneck at the Santa Fe Drive and Interstate 25 interchange, breathing the smog from idling cars, I have discovered a real conspiracy in our state: Democrats in the legislature have no interest in fixing our transportation problems, and they intend to exploit our frustration to raise taxes.
Let’s examine the mounting evidence.
As part of a 2018 bipartisan agreement to fund transportation about $500 million will be spent this year from the general fund. That will barely touch the multi-billion dollar backlog in unfunded projects. Republicans would like to make an additional $300 million investment in roads this year. Democrats oppose allocating more money from the $12 billion general fund for transportation because they say it would divert funds from other priorities — prisons, schools, public health, and the like. Yet, they had no problem authorizing an expansion of full-day kindergarten in the last session. At nearly $200 million, the program will cost more than lawmakers budgeted.
Democrats also blew $800,000 to study how the government can “increase the amount of retirement savings by Colorado’s private-sector workers.” Have they heard of an IRA and or a savings account? These savings strategies already exist. Those of us in the private sector who save for retirement could have told them all about it without spending a dime of taxpayer money. Likewise, research on the problems plaguing government retirement plans like PERA and Social Security are available on the internet for free. Imagine that.
Although Democrats have no additional money for roads, the governor has proposed spending $27 million to expand subsidized preschool programs, $10 million for a family leave benefit for state employees, and other new programs.
It’s obvious: progressive pet projects are the priority, not congested roads.
Democrats say they don’t want to act unless there is another dedicated funding source for transportation. When Republicans proposed reallocating such a source, Democrats killed the bill. Senate Bill 44 would have dedicated 10% of vehicle sales and use taxes to highway projects. Next year the state would have spent $366 million on roads.
So what is their solution? Raise taxes directly or in the form of new fees. Never mind that Coloradans already pay a driver’s license fee, commercial license fee, vehicle registration fee, public highway authority fee, emissions control fee, additional highway fee, emergency medical services fee, additional registration fee, motorist insurance identification fee, motorcycle surcharge fee, diesel fee, peace officers standards and training board fee, county road and bridge fee, plug-in electric vehicle fee, road safety surcharge fee, and a bridge safety surcharge fee. The advantage of calling a tax a fee is that the legislature doesn’t have to seek permission from voters.
In addition to all these fees, Colorado taxpayers also pay taxes for transportation including sales taxes on new vehicles, taxes on commercial transportation, and a 22 cent per gallon tax on gasoline, a rate that is midway between the state’s southern and northern neighbors.
Democrats believe Coloradans are open to a new tax on top of all of the taxes, fees, surcharges, and tolls we already pay. Did the politicians not notice the results of the past two elections? Voters rejected tax increases not once but twice. The message is pretty obvious: we already pay enough taxes and expect the legislature to spend what we give them on essential government serves like roads.
Perhaps they think that if we sit long enough at the Santa Fe and I-25 interchange breathing fumes that we’ll beg them to raise taxes. That appears to be the plan: refuse to fund roads with the money available, provoke frustration, then raise taxes. While not worthy of a Dan Brown novel, it’s a conspiracy theory worth contemplating while you’re wasting time in traffic.
Krista Kafer is a weekly Denver Post columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @kristakafer.
[via the Denver Post]