On top of the usual roster of plat amendments and boundary line adjustments scheduled for the 9 a.m. Chaffee County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, commissioners will consider whether to issue resolutions of support for specific ballot initiatives. The two under consideration are Colorado Proposition 110 and Chaffee County Ballot Issue 1B.
Proposition 110 is a statutory ballot question, focused on funding to support transportation infrastructure projects. Known as the “Let’s Go, Colorado” effort, it would put a 20-year, .062 percent sales tax before Colorado voters. This translates to 6 cents on a $10 purchase, all of which would go to fund statewide and local transportation needs.
According to Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Michael Lewis, there have been no gas tax increases since 1991, and Colorado has not been able to keep up on transportation maintenance, let alone fund new infrastructure, as the state’s population and tourist business has ballooned. During a presentation in Chaffee County in July, he explained that over the past two years, Colorado’s 64 counties have participated in identifying and ranking projects of highest importance at the county and local level, identifying $9 billion in unfunded, statewide transportation projects.
Proposition 110 would raise $767 million in its first year and allow for the bonding of $6 billion for state transportation projects, a significant portion of which would come from tourists and travelers to the state. An important feature of Proposition 110 is that although 80 percent of the funds raised are projected to come from the Front Range and metro areas, the fund-sharing agreement would deliver 40 percent of all money raised to rural counties, under county and municipal jurisdiction.
“Basically, this measure would take 40 percent of the sales tax raised and deliver it to Colorado’s rural areas, divided equally between county and municipal governments for projects determined at the local level,” said Lewis. “Forty-five percent will be directed to the statewide highway fund, 15 percent to multimodal transportation. What does this means for Chaffee County? We project that an estimated $1.8 million annually will go directly to Chaffee County for transportation needs.”
In the case of Chaffee County ballot issue 1B, voter approval would return authority to Chaffee County to seek out and negotiate high-speed internet, telecommunication and cable television service throughout the county. The county lost that authority in 2005 when the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 152, which provided that before a local government can provide telecom or cable services, it has to call an election to get voter approval to opt out. While large providers are supposed to be providing access, reliable coverage or redundancy in rural areas has not materialized.
Some believe the net result of SB 152 has been to severely limit rural connectivity, which directly impacts the ability of rural areas to compete economically with metro areas. Because rural counties lack the population to make the business case to large providers to offer a better communications backbone, many believe SB 152 limits the county’s ability to find solutions to the frequent communications outage over past few years, often for days at a time.
Twenty-three of Colorado’s 64 counties have already opted out of the bill, as well as many municipalities. Buena Vista opted out a few years ago, and Salida just approved a SB 152 opt-out in the Sept. 25 special election.