RBC | The Board of Directors of Club 20 held its fall business meeting and candidates’ debates last weekend in Grand Junction. Relevant western slope and statewide candidates were featured, and the board confirmed positions on the 13 questions Colorado voters will face on the November ballot. Rio Blanco County, the towns of Rangely and Meeker, businesses and individuals in the county are members of Club 20, which is a relatively conservative organization considered by many to be the “Voice of the Western Slope.” Coverage on candidate debates will appear next week.
Transportation Infrastructure Funding
Two presentations were on the ballot initiatives regarding funding for Colorado transportation infrastructure. Long-term Club 20 board member Rachel Richards, a Pitkin County commissioner, spoke for Proposition 110, termed “Let’s Go Colorado.” Club 20 has endorsed Prop 110. Independence Institute director of public affairs Mike Krause spoke for Proposition 109, termed “Fix Our Damn Roads.” The Independence Institute is the originator of this proposition which Club 20 opposes.
Prop 110 would increase the state’s sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent and allow the Colorado Department of Transportation to issue bonds totaling up to $6 billion over the first 20 years. This increased financial ability would go 40 percent toward statewide road and bridge funding, 40 percent distributed to municipal and county governments for projects, 15 percent toward multi-modal transport, with the remaining 5 percent for administration and bond repayment.
Richards emphasized Colorado needs a long-term, sustainable funding source to cover a current list of statewide infrastructure improvements projected to cost more than $9 billion. With alternative fuels and increasing fuel efficiencies, current gas tax revenues are not keeping up with the need, Richards said.
Krause said Prop 109 would simply tell the state Legislature to re-prioritize the state’s budget expenditures by prioritizing $3.5 billion general fund revenue for transportation bonding with those dollars spent only on road and bridge expansion, construction, maintenance and repair. The Institute, he said, believes the money is there in the state budget, the Legislature just needs to use it for roads rather than other stuff. As a core function of state government, the Institute believes transportation costs should be covered out of the general fund. For example, he said, we see this initiative as a referendum on Medicaid expansion and President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act since money spent for those programs could be spent on roads.
Former State Representative J. Paul Brown, R-Durango, responded from the audience that demanding the Legislature earmark a certain dollar amount for roads would likely have the same unintended consequence as Amendment 23, a Constitutional provision, approved by voters in 2000, which “requires” minimum annual increases in state allocations to public education. The Amendment 23 consequence has been that the money’s simply not there and the legislature has had to invent a fiscal trick, as they did with the “negative factor” for school funding.
Club 20 is a founding member of the coalition which conducted a lengthy stakeholder process to determine the best mechanism to provide a statewide funding fix to address our crumbling transportation infrastructure. Of note is that Club 20 got its start in 1953 successfully pushing for significantly greater state funding for Western Slope highways.
Other Ballot Questions
Club 20 supports Amendments Y and Z regarding congressional and legislative redistricting which were referred to the ballot by the Legislature. Club 20 hopes the measures will limit the role of partisan politics in redistricting and result in more electoral districts which are truly competitive. Club 20 supports Amendment 75 which addresses inequities in campaign funding for statewide candidates by allowing a candidate running against a significantly self-funded candidate to accept individual contributions at five times the current state limits.
On Friday, the Club 20 board added their endorsement of Amendment X, largely pushed by state Senator Don Coram (R-Montrose), which would synchronize the Colorado Constitution with regard to the definition of hemp thereby giving the state needed flexibility regarding hemp production and be competitive nationally. Coram has been a big hemp advocate who is already engaged in hemp production himself in the Uncompahgre Valley.
Club 20 opposes Prop 112 regarding setbacks for oil and gas development (drilling); Amendment 74 regarding just compensation from local and/or state government for any reduction in fair market value due to any law or regulation; and Proposition 109 as discussed above.
Club 20 has taken no position on Amendment A regarding the elimination of the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment in Colorado; Amendment V reducing the age requirement for members of the state legislature from 25 to 21; Amendment W eliminating the requirement that a retention question be asked for each justice and judge; Amendment 73 increasing income tax rates to fund public school education; nor Proposition 111 putting a 36 percent annual rate cap on predatory payday lending.
Rio Blanco County is one of the 20 some western slope counties geographically comprising Club 20. Members of the chamber of commerce-like organization elect three delegates to represent their county on the Club 20 board of directors. RBC is currently represented by this writer as the voting director together with RBC commissioners Jeff Rector and Si Woodruff. Former RBC commissioner and former Rangely mayor Peggy Rector is a past Club 20 president. The mission of Club 20 is to provide education, advocacy, support, networking opportunities and policy-maker access for our members throughout Western Colorado so they can thrive in resilient, economically healthy communities.
Courtesy to the Herald Times by Reed Kelley, Rio Blanco County Club 20 Voting Director.
Special to the Herald Times