In last week's article "Democrats want permanent funding for transportation," state Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, criticized Colorado's Democratic House leadership for wanting to create a permanent funding source to improve the state's congested road network that doesn't take funding away from public education. According to Rep. Wist, "Speaker Duran's call for more taxpayer revenue without any offsetting tax reductions . . . show she and the Democrats have given up on a fiscally responsible solution to transportation funding."
Wist's insistence that the Legislature find an offset for any increase in tax revenue is not responsible budgeting. It is "robbing Peter to pay Paul," and it doesn't speak well of Rep. Wist or of other Republican representatives, who seem determined to force Colorado residents to choose between having better maintained roads or having a higher quality public education for our children.
Colorado's roadway infrastructure is literally crumbling around us. In its 2013 Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our roads a "D," finding that over 40 percent of our highways were in "poor" condition. And that bad situation has only gotten worse as the $9 billion backlog in Colorado road projects has continued to grow.
At the same time that our roads have gone unrepaired, our public education system has been chronically underfunded, as well. According to a study by the Colorado School Finance Project, the gap between what Colorado spends per pupil, compared to the national average, grew from less than $500 per student in the early to mid-1990s to between $1,800 and $2,800 less per pupil by FY 2011-12.
We have needs here in Colorado. We need better roads, and we need better public education, too, and we should not have to choose between them. In order to have both, we need politicians who are brave enough to tell us things that we don't want to hear. We need our politicians to be leaders - men and women who are civic-minded enough and fiscally responsible enough to lead us to the conclusion that we are going to have to tax ourselves in order to pay for the things we need.
Stephen A. Justino