Apr 192006
 
Authors: STEVEN K. PAULSON

DENVER – Lawmakers killed a plan that would have asked voters give them the power to lower state gasoline taxes Wednesday, saying the $14 a month it would save the average driver wasn’t worth the damage it would cause to the state highway program.

Rep. Mark Cloer, R-Colorado Springs, said $14 a month could mean a lot to families on welfare and seniors who depend on others to deliver supplies.

“Even $14 a month would help with groceries or prescription drugs,” Cloer told the House Finance Committee, which voted to kill the bill (House Concurrent Resolution 1005) on a 9-4 vote.

Carolyn Myers told the committee she has to work four jobs to stay afloat and criticized lawmakers for voting to give themselves a break last week, raising mileage reimbursement from 28 cents per mile to a floating rate set by the Internal Revenue Service that has historically been higher than the amount paid by the state.

“Ordinary citizens wish it was so easy to find the money they need for gas,” she told lawmakers.

Rep. Val Vigil, D-Thornton, said the mileage reimbursement increase applied to all state employees and was recommended by state auditors.

“I’m sympathetic, gas prices are going up every week. It hurts,” he said.

However, he agreed with state transportation officials who said it would cost the state $68.7 million a year in highway projects, counties $25.4 million, cities $19.5 million and $22.7 million for the state patrol and ports of entry.

“We think that’s a difficult pill to swallow for $14 a month,” said Herman Stockinger, lobbyist for the state Department of Transportation.

Cloer said the Joint Budget Committee should have been allowed to reduce taxes by any amount up to the 24 cents currently charged by the state to help pay for roads and bridges.

The bill would have required voter approval because it would amend the state constitution, which requires voter approval to raise taxes under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, even if they were cut temporarily.

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