Saturday, February 7, 2009

GOP Offers Deal: Arveschoug-Bird Budget Growth Limit for Transportation Fee Hikes

Statehouse Republicans, who are steadfastly opposed to motor vehicle registration fees increases proposed as a means to pay for transportation improvements, have offered to support legislation that would eliminate the cap on the growth of the state budget if Democrats drop the fee hikes.

The proposal, which House minority leader Mike May, R-Parker, announced today, comes in the wake of the Senate's approval Thursday of the FASTER bill.

FASTER would result in the average person's motor vehicle registration fee rising by about $40 and provide more than $200 million per year for needed highway and bridge repairs and improvements throughout the state.

May also said Republicans want a portion of the state's general fund dedicated to transportation.

""Traditionally, Republicans have said: 'Thou shalt not touch the 6 percent limit,' " May is quoted as saying in a Rocky Mountain News article. "The important thing (about the new proposal) is it provides a predictable and continuous revenue stream for transportation."

The Democratic House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Joe Rice of Littleton, said he welcomes May's idea but doesn't see how it will provide the needed funds for the state's transportation system.

"That's a good mid- to long-term solution, but we still need something in the next six months," Rice told the Rocky. "And I don't know how you get away from fees not being a part of that."

The limit on the growth of the state's general fund is six percent per year. It was established in 1992 and provides that money over the limit can be spent on transportation and capital improvements.

Retired state supreme court justice Jean Dubofsky recently said that she believes the Arveschoug-Bird limit is not a constitutional constraint on spending, even though the 1992 Taxpayers Bill of Rights appears to place spending limits in the state's legal charter.

Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, cited that opinion in comments last week indicating they would introduce legislation to repeal the Arveschoug-Bird law limiting annual growth in the general fund.