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Lawmakers reach compromise on tax hike proposal for Colorado roads

DENVER -- With roughly $9 billion in unfunded transportation needs, lawmakers at the General Assembly knew they needed to pass something this year that would fix the state's transportation crisis.

They apparently have reached a compromise.

While the measure is still a long way from becoming law, a bipartisan bill has emerged that is being praised by Democrats and Republicans.

Roughly $680 million in new and existing resources would be made available for the state’s transportation needs, to be leveraged for up to $3.5 billion in bonding for projects across the state, if a 0.62 percent sales tax increase is approved by voters in November.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has identified $9 billion in need for transportation issues across the state.

"Obviously, we have grown so rapidly we have a deficit of infrastructure in a variety of forms. Infrastructure backlog," Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “We want to try to get this initiative to be above partisan politics.

"I think it needs to offer new revenue, provide for bonding and we want to make sure that where possible it allows people to have choice in terms of how they get from one place to another.”

If approved by voters, the tax increase would start in January and be in place for 20 years.

"Every county and city in Colorado will share in the benefits from this transportation package,” Democratic Speaker Crisanta Duran said. “And we will insist on transparency and accountability, so that voters will know where their dollars are going and how they will be used.

"This package, if approved by the Legislature and the voters, would be a major step forward for this state and firmly position us for growth and prosperity for the next 20 years.”

The bill is expected to evolve over the next several weeks.

“Introduction of this transportation bill doesn’t mean we’ve arrived, just that we’ve hit another important mile marker on the long and winding road to a long-term transportation fix for Colorado,” Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham said.

“This bill probably isn’t what the final product will look like because what’s being introduced is a work in progress and there’s still a lot of debate, compromise and hard work ahead before we’ll have a proposal good enough to pass muster with voters. But I’m optimistic that we’ll get there in the end.”