Republicans block bill to reinstate RTD funding during special session

DENVER -- The first day of the Colorado General Assembly special session was not good news for RTD.

Since July, the transit group -- along with other special district groups -- have been losing money because of what lawmakers have been calling a "mistake."

Earlier this year, when the General Assembly passed a new spending measure that restructured the statewide marijuana tax to 15 percent, they forgot to include language allowing special districts such as RTD to continue to collect marijuana taxes.

As a result, RTD has been losing around $500,000 a month.

"Losing $6 million of voter-approved revenue annually equates to cutting bus or train service to about 4,500 to 5,000 riders a day," RTD CEO Dave Genova said.

Genova was hoping to rally lawmakers to fix the error during this special session.

It doesn't appear to be working.

On Monday, Senate Republicans on the Transportation Committee killed a bill that would have re-established funding, citing concerns that lawmakers can't reinstate taxes without voter approval because of the state's TABOR laws.

"There is something higher, there is a higher need and that's to protect the constitutional principles of all Coloradans, not just ignore them for a view," Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham said.

Late Monday during a news conference, Gov. John Hickenlooper said he was still hopeful "something could get done," believing lawmakers have the legal authority to fix the funding error without going to voters.

Deborah Jordy, executive director of the Scientific and Cultural Facilitates District, said without reinstating funding, art programs will be cut.

SCFD is another special district impacted by the lack of taxes.

"With a decrease, it will be a decrease in programming especially for small community based organizations," Jordy said.