The right words?

Sept. 4, 2018

Voters forced to pick between two on Colorado ballot

There was a thud quickly followed by an obscenity, and I am not sure which was more alarming.

My 9-year-old daughter was getting ready for school on the second day of the year. She is my living sweet and sour patch kid. Or maybe it is sour and sweet? It depends on the minute. Ainsley will go from making everyone’s bed without even being asked to ripping the stuffing out of everyone’s pillow, and this could happen in the span of 60 seconds. A glimpse of this Ainsley/Painsley multi-personality played out during the second day of school. She was being very orderly, putting her backpack together and her shoes on, then the backpack took a suicide dive off the stool it was on, demanding attention with a thud on the hardwood floor. Ainsley’s brand-new Chrome book was tucked away in the flowery bag, and the reaction from her was very adult-like: “Oh, s***!” she blurted. I’ll spare you what followed.

Voters in Colorado might experience this quick-turning negative-positive phenomena when they are at the polls in November. Two initiatives dealing with transportation funding will be decided on—Initiative 167, affectionately titled “Fix Our Damn Roads” and Initiative 153, called the “Let’s Go Colorado” measure. Initiative 167, promoted by libertarian think tank Independence Institute, would authorize $3.5 billion in bonds that the state legislature would have to repay using dollars from the state budget. There would be no increase in taxes, and it would limit spending of bond proceeds to road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repairs in the state highway system. Money could not be spent on mass transit projects. Initiative 153 would authorize the state to sell up to $6 billion in bonds to be repaid from tax increase revenues (the state’s 2.9% sales and use tax rate would move to 3.52% for 20 years). The initiative would distribute the overall 20 years of revenue three ways: 45% going for bond repayment and state transportation funding; 15% for multimodal transportation projects that could include state and local transit, cycling, and pedestrian improvements; and the remaining 40% would be distributed to municipalities and counties to be spent on transportation projects determined by local elected officials.

Despite the tax increase, Initiative 153 is the total package, in my opinion. I’m not a fan of dumping 40% of the funding on the laps of local politicians, but it is more money dealing with more modes of transportation.

However, here’s the kicker: On the actual ballot will be limited information about both initiatives, leaving voters with a number of voids. Most voters are not very well-educated. In this case most will not know the funding breakdowns, and I doubt the “no mass transit funding” will be noted alongside Initiative 167. That’s a pretty critical bit of information. Then there is the fact there are two transportation funding proposals on the ballot, leaving voters to pick one. If Initiative 167 is actually labeled “Fix Our Damn Roads” and 153 is called “Let’s Go Colorado” aren’t we playing off two different emotions here? And because there are two, will that essentially split the vote, making it harder to pass?

I know which one I would vote for, but this comes after reading at my own pace in my own environment, not a cold-feeling voting booth with only seconds to spare en route to work or lunch. I don’t know how this will work out in Colorado’s best interest. The Colorado DOT has a $9 billion backlog, so one needs to pass. Which one to choose with limited time and information? S***.

About The Author: Wilson is editorial director of Roads & Bridges.

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