Ritter signs bill raising fees to fix Colorado roads | AspenTimes.com

Ritter signs bill raising fees to fix Colorado roads

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

THORNTON, Colo. ” Standing in front of a crumbling 50-year-old bridge over Interstate 25, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill Monday that will raise registration fees on millions of vehicles to provide $250 million for bridge and road repair and put thousands of people to work on construction jobs.

Ritter said Colorado drivers should be willing to pay an average $3 a month for safe roads and invest in Colorado’s future.

“With this bill, we’ll be able to begin work on the many unsafe bridges and roads all across this state, work that has been neglected for far too long. And at a time when the entire country is suffering from a recession, this legislation will let us save jobs, create jobs and help us get our economy moving again,” said Ritter, who was surrounded by Thornton town council members, unemployed construction workers and dozens of dignitaries.

Republicans weren’t keen on the plan, saying it’s a mistake to raise fees on the poor, elderly and others who can’t afford the extra $41 a year after it’s phased in over the next three years.

“Already-struggling families will be hit with this car tax during a recession of historic proportion,” said House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker.

Monday’s signing ceremony on a frontage road near I-25 drew a lone protester, Joe Stepniak, who said it violates the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requiring voter approval of tax increases. Ritter has maintained it’s a fee, not a tax hike.

“My daughter is working two part-time jobs and can’t afford it. It’s a tax. Put it on the ballot,” Stepniak said.

Ritter said the highway funding plan, dubbed FASTER, or Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and economic recovery, will enable the state to repair and rebuild 126 dangerous bridges and rutted roads.

Under Senate Bill 108, owners of cars and SUVs will pay an extra $32 the first year, $36.50 the second year and $41 the third year.

The bill will also impose a $2 daily fee on all car rentals and open the door to tolling on existing highways if surrounding communities back the idea. They could use some of the money raised by tolling to pay for mass transit.

Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, said the bill will protect as many as 8,000 jobs over the next year and create tens of thousands of new ones.

“For every person out there in Colorado who has lost a job, they know we cannot wait another day to get back to work,” said Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne.

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