Perry Buck: Democrats want a tax increase for roads — How much more do they want? |

Perry Buck: Democrats want a tax increase for roads — How much more do they want?

Perry Buck
For the Tribune

Buck, Perry

This past week, Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered his eighth and final state of the state address to the Colorado General Assembly.

It was a decent address, and I have tremendous respect for the governor. In the address he touched on number of issues that I agree are priorities in Colorado; regulatory relief, education funding and the health of rural Colorado's economy to name a few.

But there was one glaring issue that barely got an honorable mention — road and highway construction. Even more frustrating was how enthusiastically the House and Senate Democrats cheered his endorsement of a tax increase to pay for it. While improving roads clearly was at the bottom of our Governor's list of priorities, it is at the top of mine, and most importantly, we don't need any new tax dollars to start making progress today.

Consider this, in December, economists for the state Legislature reported there is $748 million more dollars available for the upcoming budget. Add that to the more than $200 million Colorado no longer has to remit to the federal government as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and our state has nearly $1 billion more to spend than in the prior fiscal year. Given the historically poor condition of Colorado's infrastructure, there is no reason why nearly all of that money should not go to expanding lane miles, fixing deteriorated roadways and bridges, and building new roads to accommodate our growing population.

While Hickenlooper has said he wants to use some of that new revenue for roads — his request is for less than 15 percent of the new revenue. He and the other Democrats in the Legislature have a lengthy list of other unmet needs that they view as higher priorities for the remaining 85 percent. But therein lies the real reason Colorado's roads are in such poor shape; Hickenlooper and the other Democrat leaders in Colorado have put countless priorities ahead of roads for far too long.

Based on how resistant Democrats have been to using existing revenue to address Colorado's roads, it seems like they are intentionally holding a manageable commute hostage for a tax increase. They fail to prioritize roads and then claim there is insufficient tax revenue to address the increasing traffic congestion. Republicans have made roads their top priority for years, but despite insurmountable evidence mass transit is not popular or sustainable in our state, Democrats reject any legislative proposal not heavily weighted toward more bike lanes and tax-subsidized light rail.

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The fact is, better roads will boost commerce and give the state more revenue to direct into education. Better roads will help the rural economy, and allow those areas to flourish both in residential and commercial growth. Every aspect of Colorado's economy will benefit from a big investment in roads, generating more revenue to address the other issues in our state. Above all, more lane miles will immediately and directly alleviate traffic congestion. It's that simple.

This year we have far more revenue than we expected and our economic projections indicate Colorado's economy will continue to be strong for several more years. Now is the best time to make significant investments in meaningful infrastructure. Coloradans should reject the opinion of Hickenlooper and the Democrats in the Legislature who don't think we have enough taxpayer dollars to fix this problem. Or maybe Coloradans should go a step further and ask them, "If $1 billion more than last year is not enough, how much is?"

— Rep. Perry Buck is the House minority whip, and is a member of the House Transportation & Energy Committee, the House Agriculture, Livestock, & Natural Resources Committee, and Legislative Council.