Hot SheetTransportation

Denver ponders support of ‘Let’s Go, Colorado’ transportation fall ballot measure

Author: Adam McCoy - September 12, 2018 - Updated: September 12, 2018

Early morning Denver traffic on Interstate 25. (Photo by Sparty1711, istockphoto)

Denver’s got a lot to gain from Proposition 110, a fall ballot measure aimed at addressing Colorado’s neglected transportation plights, city officials say.

Coined “Let’s Go, Colorado,” the ballot measure would increase the state’s sales-and-use tax rate by 0.62 percentage points from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent — which translates to an additional 6.2 cents on a $10 purchase.

If approved, the measure would raise $767 million in its first year and help finance bonds for up to $6 billion in road and highway improvements, as well as transit projects, said Tamara Door, Denver Downtown Partnership president and CEO, during a Denver committee meeting Tuesday.

Local municipalities like Denver would get a cut of the money. According to the measure, 20 percent of the extra revenue would go to cities and 20 percent to counties, with about 15 percent available for multimodal projects for which cities/counties could apply for through grants. The other 45 percent will go the Colorado Department of Transportation for roads and highways.

“Denver will get a lot of benefit from it — about $30 million a year,” Denver Councilwoman Kendra Black said.

Denver officials discussed a proclamation of support for the ballot measure Tuesday in a city committee meeting, but no vote was held.

The proclamation notes that the city and c ounty of Denver would “realize $29.9 million in first-year revenue and $845 million over the course of 20 years.”

While Colorado’s population has grown nearly 60 percent since 1991, state spending per driver on transportation, adjusted for inflation, has been cut in half, the proclamation says.

“Increased demands on our roads and bridges have resulted in increased traffic congestion, lost worker productivity and deep frustration among local citizens,” the proclamation reads.

There was support expressed for the ballot measure among council members on the Denver committee, including Robin Kniech and Black, who characterized the measure as a great compromise.

“To get all of these rural communities on board was a huge, heavy lift,” Black said.

Councilman Rafael Espinoza, however, said an even better deal could be struck.

As a statewide sales tax hike, Councilman Rafael Espinoza said an urban center like Denver would be subsidizing its rural neighbors.

Conversely, the ballot initiative is counter to the city’s transportation and mobility goals, and Denver could realize even more funding if it were to institute its own city-wide sales tax increase, he said.

“If we had just done this tax as Denver, it would generate close to $100 million,” Espinoza said. “There’s a $70 million a year loss that would be bondable. We’ve talked about a $300 to $400 million sidewalk problem, a $100 million bicycle network problem, which we could do.”

The state confirmed last month that supporters of Proposition 110, also known as Initiative 153, had gathered enough signatures to have the question appear on the voter ballot Nov. 6.

A competing measure — dubbed “Fix Our Damn Roads” — would not ask for a tax hike, but instead require the Legislature to put more money into roads and bridges with existing tax revenue.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.