A special state transportation finance panel has recommended Colorado increase taxes and fees enough to raise $1.5 billion for roads and transit, and key legislators say it will be difficult to develop a political consensus on that plan.
"Politically, the only way we can approach this whole thing is to do it incrementally over a number of years," said Sen. Stephanie Takis, D-Aurora, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Takis was a member of panel, which was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter. The panel met for eight months and decided on suggesting a package of tax and fee increases, including a 13-cent-a-gallon increase in the state fuel tax, which is currently 22 cents a gallon and 20.5 cents a gallon on diesel fuel.
The panel also recommended road improvement funding through increasing Colorado's annual vehicle registration fee by an average of $100 per vehicle and tacking an extra $6-a-day fee on hotel room or auto rental bills.
The panel decided that legislators could approve the extra vehicle-registration and tourist charges without putting them to a public vote, since they are fee increases and not tax hikes.
However, a fuel tax increase would have to go to voters, as would increases in the state's sales and use tax and the severance tax on oil and gas exploration—two other possible sources for transportation money recommended by the panel.
And legislators active on transportation issues say the full package of proposed tax and fee increases is not expected to win support.
"The vehicle registration fee—we'll probably see something there," said Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, a member of the House Transportation and Energy Committee.
A 13-cent-a-gallon increase in the state fuel tax is unlikely to win support. "Voters will scream about that," he said.
"At the very least, the legislature has to come up with $500 million for maintaining our current roads," said Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, chairwoman of the transportation and energy committee.
The panel deemed $500 million a year in new transportation money the minimum needed to maintain the state's existing road system.