Friday, January 23, 2009

Gibbs Introduces FASTER Transportation Funding Bill

A much-anticipated bill that would raise motor vehicle registration fees to finance improvements and repairs to the state's heavily used and decaying highway and bridge system was introduced at the capitol today.

SB 108, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, would ask the average Colorado driver to pay $32 more in registration fees in the first year of the program and then, on average, an additional $42 above what is being paid now every year after that.

The plan would raise about $214 million during its first year in effect and about $265 million every year after that.

Those funds would be used to repay Certificates of Participation, a form of loan, that would be used to finance up-front improvements including repairs to 126 bridges with structural problems.

A "fact sheet" on the so-called FASTER proposal released by Senate Democrats' communications office says that Gibbs' bill, starting in the second year of the program it creates, would generate about $160 million for safety improvements and about $100 million for bridge-related work.

In addition to the increased registration fees, Gibbs' proposal would also institute a new fees on motor vehicle rentals, late motor vehicle registrations, and registration of oversize or overweight vehicles.

Gibbs also said at a capitol news conference Friday that about $10 million raised by the new fees would be available for mass transit projects. In addition, the legislation would authorize municipalities to use tolls or public-private partnerships to finance road projects and allow the use of experimental financing methods like allow communities the option to explore other road project financing mechanisms such as a per-mile driving tax instead of the current tax applied to each gallon of gasoline purchased at the pump.

Republicans have said they are not inclined to support new and increased fees and Gibbs' bill has no GOP co-sponsor.

Gibbs acknowledged that Republican lawmakers have not signed on to his approach.

“Today we are starting a very important conversation,” he said.

In any case, however, Gibbs said Friday that the potential for economic stimulus is also a powerful justification for his bill.

A recent study by the Colorado Contractors Association indicates that a $250 million annual investment in the state's transportation system would generate between 10,000-40,000 new jobs.

The House sponsor of the FASTER proposal is Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton.