Hickenlooper and McInnis punt on specifics of how to resolve transportation’s funding crisis
By Kevin Flynn
Memo to gubernatorial candidates: If you’re coming to talk at a convention of Colorado road builders, expect to be asked what you would do to address the crisis in funding transportation improvements.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, and former Congressman Scott McInnis, seeking the Republican nomination, appeared separately at the convention of the Colorado Contractors Association. During Q and A sessions following their talks, each one missed opportunities to lay out specifics about what they would do for transportation funding.
Nevertheless, both Hickenlooper and McInnis told the contractors and engineers in the audience at the downtown Denver Marriot City Center that the straightforward solution to providing a stable, predictable and reliable funding stream to transportation infrastructure is simply to put together your best package of taxes, fees or other revenue measures to accomplish the mission, and then make the case to voters that it’s all necessary.
Hickenlooper was asked if he supports the controversial FASTER legislation that increased auto registration fees to pay for repair or replacement of unsafe bridges and deteriorated roads, and if he would veto any bill that tried to repeal it. The CCA is a firm backer of the FASTER bill. Raising registration fees meant the measure didn’t require voter approval as a tax.
The mayor said he wasn’t ready to commit to that, however.
Instead, Hickenlooper said the ultimate answer is to take your case to voters. If officials can show voters exactly what they’re going to build and why it needs to be built, it makes for a better and more publicly accepted program.
“What makes more sense is to go to voters,” Hickenlooper said.
McInnis followed Hickenlooper by more than an hour; CCA wanted to have the two together but their schedules didn’t mech. McInnis’ take on FASTER was more direct – it caused “intense animosity” among the public and was done the wrong way.
“The problem with FASTER isn’t the intent or the structure of it, it’s the fact that you didn’t go to the people in those 64 counties and explain it,” McInnis said.
But McInnis’ missed opportunity came when, after criticizing fee increases and the growing technology that would enable mileage-based road fees to replace the gas tax, he was asked what his ideas were for fixing the funding crisis.
He said he had no specifics, because “I’m not a transportation expert,” and instead asked the questioner what proposals he would have.
“If you have an idea, come to me with it.” McInnis said.
The two candidates were on the same page on one issue, however – three ballot measures this November that would slash government and school revenues and limit the ability to borrow for projects should be defeated.
Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 “don’t add up,” McInnis said. He understands voter frustration with the cost of government, he said, “but as a leader I gotta say do the math. It doesn’t add up on these amendments. These are not good amendments.”
Hickenlooper also said he opposes the trio of measures.
“All three of those ultimately will result in us being unable to build anything,” Hickenlooper said. “From your point of view, it would be impossible for government to build anything. You’re condemning us to be a second tier country.”
More Transportation News from Kevin Flynn’s Inside Lane
Get on the Inside Lane with longtime journalist Kevin Flynn, and get more news and views on Colorado’s transportation system than you can get anywhere else. Slower traffic keep to the right, we’re on the Inside Lane!
Visit Kevin Flynn’s Inside Lane