At a debate sponsored by the Colorado Business Roundtable this morning, Republican gubernatorial candidates uniformly blamed a lack of leadership for the state’s inability to fund transportation-related upgrades.
Denver Business Journal reporter Ed Sealover asked Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell, businessperson Doug Robinson, and state Treasurer Walker Stapleton where the money for transportation fixes should come from and where it should go.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman responded first by stating that transportation needs can be taken care of, but “we haven’t done it lately” because “we have not had leadership on transportation.”
“I think the money comes, in part, from the president’s tax cut and jobs act,” she said. “I heard that referred to by the governor as a ‘windfall’ the other day. Windfalls are unexpected resources that can cut taxes. It is not unexpected that we will have additional resources. We are fortunate right now to have the food. Let’s use it for transportation, and where our people really want to see it, on roads and bridges.”
While Coffman proposes to spend the funds from Colorado’s tax increase, triggered by the Trump tax cut, on transportation, state Senators Kevin Grantham and Jerry Sonnenberg have sponsored legislation that would return about the same amount of money to taxpayers in the form of an income tax cut.
Robinson also put the blame for transportation woes on Colorado leaders, saying, “We have the money… It’s about leadership.”
As a potential solution, Robinson cited State Sen. Randy Baumgardner’s (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) bill, which would spend $350 million per year to fund $9 billion in bonds for road improvements.
“I’ve traveled the state,” said Robinson. “I’ve heard what the people want. They want four lanes in both directions. No tolls and and no tax increases. We can do it.”
Robinson did not say how he’d fund Baumgardner’s bill.
Mitchell believes he can “get $2 billion directly into roads and infrastructure without increasing taxes or fees.”
Calling the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) “one of the most badly managed” government agencies, Mitchell said he’d limit CDOT overhead to no more than 20 percent. He’d also spend CDOT’s cash on hand and use performance-based auditing to save four percent of the CDOT budget.
Stapleton also targeted CDOT, saying,”We need to get CDOT back to its core competencies, which are building roads and bridges. And that starts with the head of CDOT.”
Stapleton said he’d appoint an engineer to lead CDOT, someone who has “experience building roads and bridges.”
He called for better transparency and budgeting in the state budget and CDOT, without citing specific cuts or savings that could be directed to transportation projects.
A debate for Democratic gubernatorial candidates is scheduled for March 29. Tickets to the breakfast are available on the Colorado Business Roundtable website.