Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Groff Says Toll, Mileage-Based Fee Study Provisions Will Be Removed From FASTER Bill

Two controversial provisions in a comprehensive transportation funding bill will be removed before the Senate votes on the measure, which is designed to raise more than $200 million per year to repair and improve Colorado's highways and bridges.

Senate president Peter Groff, D-Denver, announced the changes to the measure at a news conference this morning.

"We can run that in a separate bill. This bill is about putting Coloradans back to work," Groff said.

The Senate is due to consider SB 108 this morning.

Republicans announced Tuesday that they are pulling out of efforts to reach a compromise with majority Democrats on the measure.

Senate minority leader Josh Penry, R-Fruita, said the GOP was doing so because of the tolling and mileage-based fee provisions that are being removed from the bill at Groff's direction.

Penry also pointed to the bill's focus on using increased motor vehicle registration fees as the sole means of financing transportation system improvements.

"It's very hard to ask ordinary citizens to open their wallets when the General Assembly won't do the same," Penry said. "At the end of the day, we wanted to fix roads and bridges while this bill is still about tolling and tracking our cars with satellites."

Republicans want to dedicate some of the state's general fund to transportation needs, as well as a portion of revenue raised from severance taxes on energy development companies. Under current law that was enacted during the period of GOP control of the legislative branch of the government no general fund dollars are allocated to transportation.

Instead, the state begins to fund transportation once the general fund's revenues have grown by six percent over the prior fiscal year.

Voters rejected in November 2008 a GOP-supported ballot initiative that would have directed severance taxes to highways.

If given final approval by the Senate, the bill sponsored by Democrat Dan Gibbs of Silverthorne will move to the House.