‘Fix Our Damn Roads’ Will Crush Our Damn Budget 

Fix Our Damn Roads is a dead end“Fix Our Damn Roads” is a fun way to describe an initiative that will cause many more problems than it can actually solve.  

Colorado’s economy is the envy of most states throughout the country. In fact, the announcement in June that revenue forecasts are higher than expected was welcome news, as Colorado has the opportunity to further fund important priorities like education, child care, and other programs that Coloradans urgently need improved. No matter how clever its name may be, “Fix Our Damn Roads” only threatens to blow up our economic position and put our state in a fiscal hole. 

Related: Amendment 74 is Wrong for Colorado

To fund the road and bridge maintenance included in this statewide measure, Colorado will have to cut at least $260 million from our budget every year until 2039, hurting schools, older Coloradans, and working families.  

If you’re thinking, “But we have a great economy! How much is $260 million for Colorado really?” $260 million looks like this:

  • A $260 million cut would account for a 40 percent increase in K-12 education’s underfunding
  • $260 million is over twice the amount we pay each year for child care 
  • The Department of Public Safety — which includes the state patrol, the state Bureau of Investigations, and Division of Fire Prevention and Control — receives $183.1 million from the state’s General Fund.  

If you’re OK losing all or part of the above programs and services, then let’s talk about the even larger problems “Fix Our Damn Roads” will introduce to Colorado’s budget. These transportation projects will be bankrolled by bonds, and the money set aside by the legislature will go straight to already wealthy bond holders.

Think of these bonds like a credit card. If a credit card payment is missed or paid late, rates go up and you end up paying more. So, to make sure taxpayers don’t shell out more of their hard-earned dollars and rates don’t creep up, the legislature will have to prioritize repaying the bonds. As those bond holders push to the front of the line when it’s time to collect, police, first responders, schools, health care, and many other important priorities you and your family depend on will be left to fight for scraps of a shrinking budget.  

But wait — what happens if the economic pie itself shrinks? 

No one roots for an economic downturn, but recessions happen. These downturns have real consequences that affect how much money is available and, in turn, affect people across our state. Colorado saw significant negative consequences during the recession of 2001-2003 that offer an idea of what a future recession would mean for Coloradans. For example:  

And that’s exactly what will happen if and when the economy isn’t booming and state revenues fall. As we pay off these bonds, the legislature will have to significantly cut more of the budget without touching the bond payments. That means even less money will go toward you and your family. It will be disastrous for our state. 

Related: Learn More About What’s on the Ballot this November with Our 2018 Ballot Guide

Look at Kansas. Our neighbor went through some tough economic times because of budget choices it made. Kansas significantly reduced the amount of revenue the state had by dramatically cutting taxes. To make up for it, Kansas diverted millions of dollars from transportation projects to cover up holes in the budget. Credit agencies then reduced the state’s credit ratings, increasing interest rates and forcing taxpayers to make up the difference. If “Fix Our Damn Roads” passes in November, this could be Colorado’s future. As Colorado budget contracts, every consequence would be shouldered by you, the Colorado taxpayer, including higher interest rates and more out-of-pocket costs. 

Let’s just call it what it is: “Fix Our Damn Roads” is a con job.

It promises to fix the roads, but doesn’t tell us how or what will happen next. But we can fill in the blanks about the latter if voters choose this “fix”: 

  • The Colorado legislature will need to find $260 million in the budget for the next 20 years by cutting education and health care priorities millions of Coloradans depend on 
  • Wall Street hedge funds will be at the front of the line, pushing aside everyone else, as they hold their hands out for bond repayments  
  • A recession anytime over the next 20 years will force the state to cut money for education, older Coloradans, and health care even more than we already have 
  • Bond payments stay stable and Wall Street continues collecting, while everyone else fights over the leftovers 
  • Credit agencies determine Colorado’s creditworthiness isn’t what it was, leveraging the legislature to pay more for the bonds, deeply hurting the budget and everyday Coloradans  

When laid out that way, it’s clear what the proponents of the measure want: They want less money for Coloradans, while ensuring already wealthy bond holders get paid no matter what. Not to mention the initiative doesn’t put any money toward public transportation, bike paths, senior access ride, park ‘n ride, or other types of important transportation priorities. 

“Fix Our Damn Roads” may fix a few roads, but it will absolutely destroy Colorado’s road to prosperity. Coloradans need to reject this measure and restore some fiscal sanity to the state.