Thursday, March 27, 2008

Senate Committee OK's Constitutional Lock on Transportation Spending

A Senate committee approved Thursday a resolution that would ask the state's voters to amend Colorado's constitution to assure that revenues from all sales and use taxes related to automobiles could be used only for transportation projects.

SCR 2 proposes a constitutional amendment requiring the tax revenues from auto-related sources to be routed into the state highway fund and available only to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

If approved by the electorate, the constitutional amendment would allow the General Assembly to divert revenues derived from auto-related sales to other purposes only if two-thirds of the members in each chamber voted to do so.

The measure would assure that about $300 million per year would be available for highway projects, according to sponsor Sen. Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs.

The proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by both chambers of the General Assembly and the voters, would be the second instance of using the state constitution to constrain the legislature's discretion to reduce spending on particular areas of the state budget.

Amendment 23, approved in 2000, requires the General Assembly to increase funding for K-12 education by the rate of inflation plus one percent per year through 2011 and then by the rate of inflation each year after that.

SCR 2 is sponsored in the House by minority leader Mike May, R-Parker.

Gov. Bill Ritter appointed a commission to study transportation issues in Colorado in April 2007. But the governor has not suggested any specific legislation based on the recommendations of the Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel, which were issued in January 2008.