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Heidi Ganahl’s transportation plan would refocus spending on driving and reverse some legislation supported by Jared Polis – Colorado Public Radio | Gmx Pharm

The second is a 2021 Transportation Funding Act that will bring in billions of dollars for roads, bridges, infrastructure and incentives for electric vehicles, public transit and other transportation projects through new fees. That bill, she said, bypasses the state’s tax cap law and underspends on roads.

“He wants you to ride an electric bus everywhere, which is just not feasible for most Colorado residents,” she said of the governor.

In reality, while Polis has backed significant funding increases for electric vehicles, public transit (excluding RTD), and other low-carbon transportation efforts, its Department of Transportation is in the midst of its own decade-long plan to spend billions of dollars on roads — including expansion projects.

Ganahl said their transportation plan would not collect taxes. But it would depend on new taxes.

At the heart of Ganahl’s $10 billion transportation plan is a ballot initiative scheduled for a vote in 2024. The measure would ask voters to repeal the 2021 Transport Act and associated fees for things like deliveries, ride-sharing services and gas, and replace those revenues with new taxes that would reflect the fees.

“I’m taking this plan to voters to get their endorsement and we’re going to call them taxes as they are,” she said. “That’s the key, it’s just about being honest, authentic and transparent with the people of Colorado.”

The transportation taxes in Ganahl’s proposal differ from the fees in the Polis-backed 2021 bill in a few key ways. First, the taxes would be temporary, phasing out in 10 years. Second, there are significant restrictions on how fee income can be spent. Ganahl could more easily reallocate spending to road projects if the revenue came from taxes. Third, the taxes would be voter-approved. The fees in the 2021 transport package did not require voter approval due to the wording of the law.

Any attempt to get nationwide voter approval for a new transportation tax would likely prove difficult; the last attempt in 2018 failed with 19 points. The legislature’s ability to collect fees without voter consent is a key reason the Democratic legislature used them in their 2021 bill.

“It will happen, don’t worry,” Ganahl said of her proposed ballot initiative. She didn’t say what her contingency plan would be if it failed.

Ganahl’s plan would also rely on $3 billion in public-private partnerships and $3.5 billion in allocations from general government funds. She said she was “confident” lawmakers could find that money, despite her plans to eliminate the state income tax.

“If the people of Colorado want to approve voter funding, the General Assembly has to accommodate the people,” she said.

Ganahl’s plan provides miles of new toll lanes and would restore at least one freeway extension that the Polis CDOT has dropped.

Ganahl supports toll lanes, which have been standard practice for CDOT for years. Their plan calls for continuous toll lanes from Castle Rock to Fort Collins, which would require widening Interstate 25 through the south side of the subway into downtown. CDOT and the Denver Regional Council of Governments have just withdrawn from a proposed expansion of a portion of this stretch of the freeway.

Toll lanes would allow for more consistent travel times, Ganahl noted, and could be used by public transit buses. Ganahl and her supporters said public transit should be a choice for commuters — not forced on them.

“People in Colorado are penalized for driving their cars,” Johnny Olson, a former CDOT executive who supports Ganahl, said at the news conference. “We don’t want that.”

Ganahl did not say if she would support current bus rapid transit plans on arterial roads in the Denver area, which could take away lanes for private vehicles.

In many ways, Ganahl’s proposal to expand high-profile highways mirrors that of Polis. CDOT announced Wednesday that it had raised enough funds to add toll lanes to two sections of I-25 between Denver and Fort Collins, which would result in a continuous toll lane between the two cities.

Polis’ CDOT also plans to widen Interstate 270 in Commerce City, which Ganahl incorrectly said the agency would drop. There are also plans to widen Interstate 70 at Floyd Hill west of Denver and I-70 at Vail Pass.

A representative of the Polis campaign declined to comment. In a press release, the Colorado Democratic Party called Ganahl’s plan a “vague” set of ideas.

“Heidi’s first plan is more of a wish list … of things the governor is already doing,” party spokeswoman Kailee Stiles said in a press release.

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