Tuesday, April 18, 2017

El Paso County commissioners oppose a statewide sales tax to fund infrastructure

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Commissoner Mark Waller and his colleagues oppose a statewide sales tax hike. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • Commissoner Mark Waller and his colleagues oppose a statewide sales tax hike.
An idea to raise sales taxes statewide to fund transportation got a kick in the shorts on Tuesday when the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the measure, which isn't even an approved bill yet.

State lawmakers are pushing through a measure for the November ballot that would raise sales taxes by .62 of a percent to fund the state's deteriorating highways.

But county commissioners here are cool to the idea.

Commissioner Mark Waller set out five reasons why he's opposed:
"It's just not the right mechanism for our community," he tells the Indy. "We're already incredibly sales tax heavy. Number two, all the dollars we're sending to Denver aren't coming back. "Number three, when I started in the legislature in 2009, the general fund budget was $7 billion. Today, it's close to $11 billion dollars. All the state leaders complain that we have a revenue problem. No we don't. We have a spending problem. I think we have an obligation before we ask taxpayers for money to find some general fund dollars. Four, [Interstate 25 north of Monument] doesn't make it on the list if we support it. They're not even creating a prioritization list to go to voters with. Lastly, this is about funding critical transportation infrastructure needs. If that's truly what it's about, why did they put the multi-modal piece in it? I don't think that's appropriate."

Waller admits money is needed for the state's roads, bridges and highways. "There is no doubt that our transportation spending is woefully lacking," he says. But a tax increase isn't the way to go, he says.

He also predicted the measure would fail, because it would need to win in El Paso County, and it won't. "I don't think this community has the appetite to pass a tax increase," he says.

Commissioner Stan VanderWerf complained, too, about the I-25 project not being guaranteed funding in the tax package. The four-lane road, which needs widening, has become a productivity issue for the economy. "We are talking about thousands of man years [spent stuck in traffic]. This is a prioritization problem, not a revenue problem."

Other commissioners expressed similar concerns.

In a related development, the county issued this news release about an effort to advance the I-25 widening project:
Members of the newly formed I-25 Gap Coalition, representing cities, counties, business and economic development interests up and down the I-25 corridor between Denver South and Colorado Springs, will hold a press conference to discuss plans to advocate for accelerating transportation improvements in the gap between Castle Rock and Monument.

What: Media Announcement and Interview Opportunities

When: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.

Where: 100 Third Street, Castle Rock, 80104, County Admin Building, Douglas County Hearing Room

Speakers:

* Roger Partridge, Douglas County Commissioner
* Congressman Mike Coffman (CO-06)
* Mayor John Suthers, City of Colorado Springs
* Mark Waller, El Paso County Commissioner
* Dirk Draper, President & CEO, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC
* Frank Gray, President & CRO, Castle Rock Economic Development Council

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