State Lawmakers Consider Fees On Everything From Gas To Pizza Delivery To Fix Colorado's Roads

A draft of a bill by Democrats in the state legislature includes about $3.9 billion in new fees and $1.5 billion in general fund and stimulus dollars.

Video Transcript

- More than $5 billion. It may be the biggest single investment ever in Colorado's transportation.

- And that money is coming from your pocket. A draft of the bill introduced late today shows a gas fee that increases to $0.08 by 2028. Now, that's on top of the $0.41 a gallon gas tax we now pay. There's also a delivery service fee of $0.27 for things like Amazon, FedEx, and food, and a 30% fee for ride-sharing services like Uber.

- Now, this bill would also require electric vehicle owners to pay a registration fee equal to what gas-powered car owners will pay in their registration and gas fees. Governor Polis is supporting this, saying it is time to invest in what we have fallen behind on.

JARED POLIS: And by doing this, we can finally make progress in Colorado towards reducing traffic, fixing our roads, cleaner air, saving people money with electric vehicles and on vehicle registration fees, and on multimodal transit options for more Coloradans.

SHAUN BOYD: The bill is full of new fees and government entities to manage those fees. It's nearly 200 pages long and invests more than $5 billion over the next 11 years, not only in roads and bridges but green transportation projects too.

Everyone who uses the roads pays under the bill. There's a fee on gas and diesel, a fee on electric vehicles and ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, a car rental fee and delivery service fee on anything you pay a sales tax on, from pizza to Amazon purchases.

STEVE FENBERG: We need to make sure that everybody is paying their fair share and that we get something in return for it. And that's what a fee is.

SHAUN BOYD: Senator Steve Fenberg, sponsor of the bill that includes about $3.9 billion in new fees, and $1.5 billion in general fund in stimulus dollars.

STEVE FENBERG: We'll get historic investment in multimodal transportation, a historic investment in roads and bridges over 11 years-- finally fixing I-70, finally fixing the Eisenhower Tunnel.

SHAUN BOYD: Most of the money, $2.7 billion, goes to roads and bridges. There's $734 million to incentivize the purchase of electric cars, buses, and charging stations, and the remainder goes to multimodal projects, air pollution mitigation, and front-range rail service.

BARBARA KIRKMEYER: It's like a feeding frenzy down here with all the dollars that are going around, and we can't find money to go towards transportation. We have to go out and ask for a tax, or a fee-- whichever you'd like to it.

SHAUN BOYD: Senator Barb Kirkmeyer says the bill is an end run around the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which requires lawmakers to go to voters for tax increases.

BARBARA KIRKMEYER: It's just incredible that they are this-- so blatantly arrogant that they would circumvent the public in this manner.

SHAUN BOYD: The bill could also run afoul of Proposition 117, which requires voter approval for new enterprises that generate more than $100 million in fees a year. The bill spreads the money over five enterprises, or entities, that manage the money so none cross the threshold.

MICHAEL FIELDS: I think they're definitely doing what I would call "legislative gymnastics" to get through and try to find loopholes.

SHAUN BOYD: Michael Fields wrote Proposition 117 and anticipated lawmakers using multiple enterprises to circumvent it, so we added language to say if enterprises serve the same purpose, they count as one.

MICHAEL FIELDS: If they start doing it on this, they're going to do it on something else, and something else.

STEVE FENBERG: The enterprises serve different purposes. We know that when you ask voters, what are your number one concerns? Transportation is right at the top. And we're talking a penny a gallon. It is pretty insignificant compared to the benefits that they will get.

SHAUN BOYD: Under the bill, the fees would index each year to inflation, and the enterprises that manage those fees could also adjust them at any point. The bill is all but certain to pass, and all but certain to face a legal challenge. At the Capitol, Shaun Boyd, covering Colorado first