DALLAS -- Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado on Tuesday killed a Republican proposal for a November referendum on $3.5 billion of transportation revenue anticipation bonds.
Democrats on the House State Affairs Committee narrowly rejected Senate Bill 210, a measure passed by the Colorado Senate on May 5 that would have put the $3.5 billion of 20-year TRANs proposal on the November ballot as early as this year and no later than 2018.
A few hours later, Republicans on the state Senate Finance Committee voted down a proposal by House Democrats and backed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, which would have provided up to $200 million a year for transportation. House Bill 1420 would have freed up more than $700 million of annual hospital provider fees for use in education and transportation by removing it from strictures of the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
The two votes put an end to efforts by a number of Colorado lawmakers to increase transportation funding in the 2016 session, which is set to end at midnight on Wednesday.
The demise of transportation funding in the last few days of the General Assembly belies the optimism for transportation funding that accompanied the opening of the 2016 session four months ago, said Sandra Solin, director of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance and a spokeswoman for the Fix Colorado Roads Coalition advocacy group.
"Transportation did not appear to be the priority that was conveyed at the very outset of this legislative session, to say the least," she said. "Actions speak louder than words, and we're disappointed."
Baumgardner said time is running out on resolving Colorado's transportation revenue shortfall.
"If we continue to do nothing to fix this problem, I don't know how we're going to drive anywhere," he said. "Roads are in bad shape."
The state faces a nearly $9 billion revenue shortfall in meeting its transportation infrastructure needs over the next 10 years, and a $25 billion shortfall over the next 20 years, according to Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, four members of the Arkansas Senate Transportation Committee said they are working on increases in the state gasoline and diesel taxes for introduction during a special legislative session on transportation funding that begins May 19.
The proposal would raise, by 5 cents per gallon, both the current state gasoline tax of 21.5 cents per gallon and the 22.5 cents per gallon state tax on diesel.
The proposed increase would generate an additional $100 million for Arkansas highways in fiscal 2018. The state fuel taxes would go up by an additional 3 cents per gallon from 2019 through 2021 and then expire unless renewed by the General Assembly.
The fuel tax increases would generate an additional $160 million per year when fully implemented, with $110 million going to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and $50 million divided between cities and counties, said Sen. Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana.
The current state fuel taxes generated $442 million in fiscal 2015, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposed a four-part, no-new-tax road funding plan in January that he said would increase transportation expenditures by $750 million over 10 years. Hutchinson's plan would use state general fund revenues for highway projects for the first time.
The additional state funding generated by the proposal would serve as a match for $2 billion of federal highway aid, Hutchinson said.
Arkansas voters in 2012 approved a constitutional amendment authorizing a 10-year, 0.5% increase in the state sales tax for highway projects.