Election 2018NewsTransportation

Transportation measures’ backers park petitions at secretary of state’s office

Author: Marianne Goodland - August 6, 2018 - Updated: August 7, 2018

transportation ballot
Supporters of Let’s Go Colorado, a transportation ballot measure, rally at the steps of the state Capitol. (Photo by Marianne Goodland, Colorado Politics)

Supporters of two transportation measures proposed for Colorado’s November ballot jockeyed for first position at the Secretary of State’s Office when it opened at 7 a.m. Monday to turn in petitions.

One measure, Initiative 153, would raise the state sales tax by about 6 cents on a $10 purchase, effective Jan. 1, to finance bonds for up to $6 billion for road and highway improvements and transit projects.

The measure is backed by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Contractors Association, the Colorado Metro Mayors Caucus and Club 20, the Western Colorado advocacy group.

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Supporters held a press conference Monday to announce they had turned in 198,261 signatures in 135 boxes to Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office. Ballot measures are required to collect at least 98,492 signatures, but supporters usually turn in at least 50 percent more than that to account for petition or signature errors.

Williams’ staff has 30 days to certify the measure for the ballot.

Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, a Democrat, and former Mayor Cathy Noon of Centennial, a Republican, are the measure’s named proponents. Gibbs told Colorado Politics that their measure provides the financing and the funding for much of the state’s $9 billion wish list for transportation projects. In the first year, the measure would collect as much as $800 million, which would start to cover the costs of about $6 billion in bonds for those projects.

While neither the ballot measure itself nor a fiscal impact statement identify which projects would be paid for, Gibbs said Initiative 153 is tied to CDOT’s wish list.

The measure would dedicate 45 percent of the bond proceeds to the state transportation fund, Gibbs said, with another 40 percent to local governments for their transportation projects. The last 15 percent would cover “multimodal” projects such as public transit and senior citizen ride services.

There isn’t a hidden stash of money in the couch cushions of the governor’s office, Gibbs, a former state senator, said during the press conference.

Everyone has a frustrating story about transportation, said Terri Binder, transportation chair for Club 20. Without repairs to the state’s roads and highways, Colorado becomes just a little less attractive to businesses who may want to relocate here, she said.

The ballot measure is tied to one passed by the General Assembly during the 2018 session: Senate Bill 1, which puts $495 million toward transportation out of a $1 billion surplus from 2017-18.

Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada played a major role in getting the bill passed, but she was the only legislative proponent of SB 1 to attend Monday’s news conference. The bill’s sponsors, Republican Sens. John Cooke of Greeley and Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs, weren’t there, nor was Republican Rep. Perry Buck of Greeley.

Zenzinger told Colorado Politics that SB 1 serves as a backup in case the ballot measure fails to win voter approval.

“It is a really good backup plan, but it will only get us a third of the way there to solving the problem. And (SB 1)  doesn’t include local governments,” she added. “When almost 80 percent of the infrastructure of roads and transportation is local, they need to be part of the solution.”

transportation ballot
Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, with 150,000 petition signatures for Fix Our Damn Roads. (Photo courtesy of the Independence Institute)

Meanwhile, a second transportation measure showed up bright and early at the Secretary of State’s office: Initiative 167, dubbed “Fix Our Damn Roads.” Supporters, including the Independence Institute, turned in more than 150,000 signatures.

In a statement, Institute President Jon Caldara said that “for too long, the state has held our roads and bridges hostage while increasing spending on other priorities like Medicaid expansion, hoping we taxpayers get so frustrated by traffic we’ll agree to a tax increase. Well, this fall, voters will have a choice.

“As the Denver Chamber of Commerce pimps a 21% sales tax increase for transit, roads and a slush fund for cities, there will be an alternative as our Fix Our Damn Roads initiative will also be on the ballot. It will force the state to use its large surplus funds and re-prioritize spending to roads.”

The measure “funds specific projects listed in the actual ballot language,” Caldara continued. “Voters get the final say – new roads without a tax with ‘Fix Our Damn Roads,'” or a massive transportation tax increase to pay for Medicaid expansion.

The fiscal impact statement for Initiative No. 167 identifies 66 projects that would be funded with existing state revenues, for a total cost of $5.6 billion. The ballot measure, however, would only cover about $3.5 billion of those projects, leaving a gap of more than $2 billion.


correction: Noon is former mayor of Centennial.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.