Commissioners Corrigan, Monger worry about transportation funding
Steamboat Springs — U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colorado, told a Steamboat Springs audience Tuesday he would be hesitant to endorse an increase in the gasoline tax to fund future highway needs, but added that some of his fellow members of Congress are studying funding options that could be compared to the bonds that school districts issue to generate revenue stream to build $50 million school buildings.
“The big challenge we’re having is finding a funding mechanism,” for transportation projects,” Tipton said during a conversation with the Routt County Board of Commissioners. “I’m personally reluctant to look at raising the gas tax — it’s a hardship on people making $12 an hour.”
Tipton, in his third term representing Colorado’s Third Congressional District, was reacting to Commissioner Tim Corrigan who expressed dismay that, in his view, neither the state of Colorado nor the federal government has a strategic plan to increase spending on highways.
“It’s very frustrating to look around Colorado,” Corrigan said. Routt County is “holding our own, and state and federal government are unable to put together any sort of rational plan. I encourage you to come up with some sort of rational plan.”
Commissioner Doug Monger was more blunt.
Describing a trip over the weekend to Kearney, Nebraska, and back in a steady stream of over-the-road semi’s, he observed that the nation is adding more vehicles and people without responding to growing demands on transportation infrastructure.
“It’s going to be the economic downfall of our state and probably of our nation,” Monger said. “Our transportation infrastructure is pitiful.”
Monger said he regretted the U.S. had not spent more on transportation projects in the 1990s, when funding was more available.
Tipton told Monger he had learned from his earliest days in politics, while assisting a state senator, the importance of farm-to-market roads in supporting commerce.
What the nation needs to fund highways, Tipton said, is a sustainable revenue stream that will not result in new taxes on motorists. In addition, the congressman from Cortez — who represents a geographically vast district stretching from Pueblo in the southeast to Craig in northwest Colorado — said he advocates streamlining the environmental approval process for repairs and improvements to existing highways.
Rodger Steen, of rural Steamboat, did his best to persuade Tipton to reconsider an increase in the gasoline tax.
“What we call a gas tax is really a user fee,” Steen said. “We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to come to a solution soon. I recommend we talk about increasing the user fee for fuel. It’s not a complicated thing to do from a government perspective.”
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