Driving for dollars 

TABOR reform hits the highway in Colorado Springs

High-ranking officers at Fort Carson, and their wishes for highway dollars, have several members of the Colorado Springs City Council supporting the statewide effort to put the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights on hold.

In November, voters will decide whether to let the state keep and spend $3.1 billion in taxpayer refunds over five years to handle budget shortfalls while borrowing up to $1.2 billion for transportation needs.

Mayor Lionel Rivera said he favors the referenda because they will bring $91 million in highway dollars to the region.

"I will always vote in support of what I think is right for the community," he said.

The money, if approved by state transportation planners, would be used for two projects along Interstate 25, including the off-ramp at state Highway 16. That is the Gate 20 entry to Fort Carson, which expects to receive thousands of new soldiers and personnel in coming months following base closures elsewhere in the nation.

Local Republican leaders are split between their anti-tax allegiances and the reality that highways need repairs and are only going to become more congested if nothing is done, said Warren Whiteaker, senior transportation planner for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.

"It's hard to say no to that money," he said. "We do have some transportation needs. If you have the opportunity, why not include yourself?"

Local Republican legislators have been vocal in their objections to the proposal, but the regional council is set to back the measure so long as city governments pass resolutions supporting the referenda, Whiteaker said.

The Colorado Springs City Council probably will vote after a public meeting in coming weeks.

Councilwoman Margaret Radford, who like Rivera is Republican, also supports the Highway 16 project, and another at I-25 and Cimarron Street. She said her support is not a question of political party, but one of practicality.

"I'm at first inclined to support our military, and I'm not going to let some abstract political philosophy get in the way of that," Radford said.

-- Michael de Yoanna


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