With attention turning to a forthcoming proposal from the Trump administration to “spur” decades-backlogged infrastructure spending across the nation–“spur” being the word ominously substituting for the words “pay for“–Coloradans hoping for help with our own state’s aging transportation and communications networks are not seeing much to get excited about. As CBS4 Denver reports:
The Trump Administration is expected to release its plan to fund new roads and bridges. Pres. Donald Trump says he wants to make a trillion dollar investment but it may leave Colorado short.
The state is already in the hole billions of dollars when it comes to transportation funding. If the draft of Mr. Trump’s infrastructure plan is any indication, that hole could get much deeper.
And why is that, you ask? The same reason Colorado can’t step up to the pump to pay for the huge investments needed right now:
The draft calls for half of federal infrastructure dollars to be doled out as competitive grants and only states willing to invest more money themselves would be eligible.
“If Colorado doesn’t pass increased revenue this year, Colorado won’t be able to compete,” said Ed Rendell, head of the bipartisan group Building America’s Future.
Trump’s infrastructure plan proposes federal investment of a mere $200 billion, a small fraction of the number Trump used on the campaign trail when boasting of his plans to comprehensively rebuild America’s roads and bridges. The remaining $800 billion of Trump’s “$1 trillion plan” would be ponied up by the state and local governments who would benefit from the improvements.
The short version: Colorado’s GOP-engineered revenue restrictions would leave the state unable to take advantage of the national Republican Party’s own infrastructure plan.
The principle Trump is operating on with this plan, that beneficiaries of infrastructure improvement should have some “skin in the game,” breaks down in the case of states like Colorado who don’t have the fiscal ability to keep up. Even with the perverse “unexpected” revenue boost from the federal tax bill for Colorado, the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights prevents lawmakers from taking the action that would be needed to make the investment the Trump administration expects.
There are politically mitigating factors that could play in here, like Colorado Republicans embracing a ballot measure to meaningfully raise revenue in 2018. But for obvious reasons, we’re not holding our breath. The more likely scenario is the obvious contradiction is allowed to play out with no acknowledgement–let alone action to actually resolve it.
For Colorado, the whole business is just another lesson in why we can’t have nice things.