Gov. Jared Polis seeks to delay new gas fee, just months after making it law

Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown ...

Barely six months after Gov. Jared Polis signed a landmark transportation funding bill, the governor seeks to temporarily undo a key provision: initiating a 2 cents-per-gallon fee on gasoline.

His proposal has Republicans, who all along blasted the fee increase, accusing Polis of cynically copying their messaging in an election year. Democrats say that delaying until January a scheduled increase in this fee — effectively a tax, most in the Capitol acknowledge — doesn’t compromise any climate-action goals and is consistent with their longstanding objective to help people, and especially those who are struggling, save money.

The bill Polis signed in June, SB21-260, is set to go into effect this summer and projects to raise more than $5 billion by 2032. Democrats and a small crew of Republicans who backed the bill celebrated this plan as a historic achievement. At one point they held a packed press conference in the Capitol foyer, at which Polis emphasized, “It’s time to fix our damn roads!”

The reason for this enthusiasm? This bill promises a huge increase in transportation funding over previous years when legislators repeatedly tried and failed to create significant and reliable new funding streams for roads and bridges, public transit and non-vehicle projects like bike paths.

The gas fee is integral to this plan, with SB21-260 promising to raise it by 2 cents per gallon this year and another one cent annually through 2028. Analysts projected that these penny-sized increases would add up to $1.6 billion by 2032.

Democrats said, and say now, that the increases are so small that drivers will barely notice them. Republican lawmakers and political operatives have spent the better part of a year campaigning vigorously against it; when the GOP unveiled its “Commitment to Colorado” agenda this summer, it did so at a Denver gas station.

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RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostColorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown speaks during a press conference outside a Sinclair Gas Station, at the intersection of South Broadway and East Alameda Ave. in Denver on Aug. 9, 2021. Members of the GOP used the gas station as a talking point about gas prices rising across the state.

Polis is now — for the moment — opposed to this increase, too. He’s proposing a slew of fee reductions and banking much of his election messaging on cost savings.

“Look, what the legislature, as part of the bipartisan transportation bill decided, is that over time, gas tax will be adjusted for inflation,” he told reporters on the Capitol steps Monday. “What I think we can all agree on now is not is not that time. When families are struggling to keep up with costs, now is not the time for the gas tax to keep up with inflation. If that’s a good policy in the long term to help make sure that we have less traffic, and roads and bridges, that’s a fine thing. But now is not the time. Let’s show people relief at the pump.”

Democratic leaders in the legislature, including the lead sponsors of the transportation bill, …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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