On Wednesday, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Colorado Transportation Innovation Office (CTIO) announced their plan to the Colorado Transportation Commission to fully fund the 7-mile North I-25 Express Lane “Segment 5” from State Highway 56 (South of Berthoud) to State Highway 66 (North of Longmont).
“Segment 5” was the last remaining two-lane stretch of North I-25 that was not fully funded. The $350 Million commitment comes from a combination of funding from CDOT’s 10 Year Plan and a federal TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan that will be repaid from toll revenues from the Express Lane. The Transportation Commission committed nearly $1 billion to build Segments 6 through 8, from Berthoud to Fort Collins, in 2018.
Until Wednesday’s decision, full funding of the final segment was undefined.
The commitment assures the North I-25 Express Lane extends from Fort Collins to Longmont. The 10-year plan, however, is silent on building the I-25 Managed Express Lane south of Longmont to E-470 (Segment 4) to provide a continuous managed lane from Fort Collins to Denver, despite the call for such improvement throughout the corridor, including this segment, to address continued growth in the region in 2011 Environmental Impact Study and Record of Decision.
“Eight years ago, the Fix North I-25 Alliance and the North I-25 Coalition called for expansion of North I-25 from two lanes to three by 2025. This interstate is one of the most economically significant roadways in Colorado and nationally and Wednesday’s announcement finally answered our call and vision for Northern Colorado. We commend CDOT leadership including Executive Director Shoshana Lew, CTIO Director Nick Farber, CDOT Region 4 Director Heather Paddock and Transportation Commissioner Kathleen Bracke for their commitment to finish the job to invest in the backbone of Northern Colorado.”
—Sandra Hagen Solin, Fix North I-25 Business Alliance (NCLA)
“We thank Director Lew, the team at CDOT, and CTIO for finding a funding creative solution like leveraging TIFIA loans to address the very real safety concerns in Segment 5. We’re also encouraged that progress over the last few years to improve reliability, safety, and reduce congestion in other segments along North I-25 will not be a lost now that funding for Segment 5 is found as all segments of North I-25 must work for a fluid system.
“We celebrate this decision as a victory, but our work is not done – it is only the first step. The full EIS design for North I-25 calls for a 3+1 lane configuration. Nearly $75 million is being invested in multi-modal hubs at Highways 119 & 56 and at Centerra. For the commuter to see their taxpayer dollars at work, these hubs need the predictability of a managed lane all the way to Union Station. Our work continues.”
–Weld County Commissioner, Scott James, Chair of the North I-25 Coalition
“The real winners in this decision are Northern Colorado businesses who rely on a working, functional roadway for commerce and freight as well as the ability for their workers to commute with more ease. And, with Colorado’s population increasing 31 percent over the last two decades, the entire state stands to benefit. We thank CDOT and the CTIO for their leadership in moving this vote forward.”
–Ann Hutchison, President/CEO, Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce
Northern Colorado is United
Northern Colorado is united in its efforts to assure full funding of North I-25. Together, the North I-25 Coalition and Fix North I-25 Business Alliance, represent the local governments and the business community of the Northern Colorado region.
The North I-25 Coalition, founded in September 2013 and chaired by Weld County Commissioner Scott James, encompasses local government Mayors, Commissioners and Councilors representing entities – counties, cities, and towns – along the I-25 corridor.
The region’s business community founded the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance in early 2014. The Alliance, chaired by Ann Hutchison (Pres/CEO, Fort Collins Chamber), is a project of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, the joint advocacy arm of the Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley Chambers of Commerce with Upstate Colorado and One NoCo Economic Development.
The November ballot will include 11 issues that have been cleared by the Office of the Secretary of State. Of that total, three propose changes to the Colorado Constitution which require a 55% approval rate to become law (denoted as “Amendment”). The balance of items propose changes to state statute which require a simple majority. Six items have been placed on the ballot via citizen-initiative and five have been referred by the Colorado Legislature.
The Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance will be reviewing all issues to determine relevancy to the business community and formulate position statements. In advance of completing that process, a summary of the items is presented for your early consideration.
Formal title and ballot language for each item is shown below, along with a brief explanation of the effect of a “yes” of “no” vote.
Citizen Initiated Measures
Proposition #121 – Reduction of State Income Tax
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes reducing the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%?”
A “yes” vote supports a reduction to the tax rate paid by all Colorado taxpayers.
A “no” vote opposes a reduction to the tax rate paid by all Colorado taxpayers.
Proposition #122 – Access to Natural Medicines
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning legal regulated access to natural medicine for persons 21 years of age or older, and, in connection therewith, defining natural medicine as certain plants or fungi that affect a person’s mental health and are controlled substances under state law; establishing a natural medicine regulated access program for supervised care, and requiring the department of regulatory agencies to implement the program and comprehensively regulate natural medicine to protect public health and safety; creating an advisory board to advise the department as to the implementation of the program; granting a local government limited authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of providing natural medicine services; allowing limited personal possession, use, and uncompensated sharing of natural medicine; providing specified protections under state law, including criminal and civil immunity, for authorized providers and users of natural medicine; and, in limited circumstances, allowing the retroactive removal and reduction of criminal penalties related to the possession, use, and sale of natural medicine?”
A ”yes” vote supports the following:
defining certain psychedelic plants and fungi as natural medicine, including dimethyltryptamine (DMT); ibogaine; mescaline (excluding peyote); psilocybin; and psilocyn;
decriminalizing the personal use, possession, growth, and transport of natural medicines for persons 21 years old and older; and
creating the Regulated Natural Medicine Access Program for licensed healing centers to administer natural medicine services.
A “no” vote opposes decriminalizing the personal use and possession of certain psychedelic plants and fungi defined as natural medicine and creating the Regulated Natural Medicine Access Program.
Proposition #123 Dedicated State Income Tax Revenue for Affordable Housing Programs
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning statewide funding for additional affordable housing, and, in connection therewith, dedicating state revenues collected from an existing tax of one-tenth of one percent on federal taxable income of every individual, estate, trust, and corporation, as defined in law, for affordable housing and exempting the dedicated revenues from the constitutional limitation on state fiscal year spending; allocating 60% of the dedicated revenues to affordable housing financing programs that will reduce rents, purchase land for affordable housing development, and build assets for renters; allocating 40% of the dedicated revenues to programs that support affordable home ownership, serve persons experiencing homelessness, and support local planning capacity; requiring local governments that seek additional affordable housing funding to expedite development approvals for affordable housing projects and commit to increasing the number of affordable housing units by 3% annually; and specifying that the dedicated revenues shall not supplant existing appropriations for affordable housing programs?”
A ”yes” vote supports creating the State Affordable Housing Fund and dedicated one-tenth of one percent (0.01) of state income tax revenue to fund housing programs, including:
providing grants to local governments and loans to nonprofit organizations to acquire and maintain land for the development of affordable housing [Note: “affordable” is defined within the full text to mean resulting housing costs do not exceed 30% of gross monthly income for qualified households. Qualified households are further defined as renter households earning 60% of area median income or less and owner-occupied households earning 100% of area median income or less.];
creating an affordable housing equity programto make equity investments in multi-family rental units to ensure that rent is no more than 30% of a household’s income;
creating a concessionary debt program to provide debt financing for low- and middle-income multi-family rental developments and existing affordable housing projects;
creating an affordable home ownershipprogram providing down-payment assistance for homebuyers meeting certain income requirements;
creating a grant program for local governments to increase capacity to process land use, permitting, and zoning applications for housing projects; and
creating a program to provide rental assistance, housing vouchers, and other case management for persons experiencing homelessness.
A “no” vote opposes creating the State Affordable Housing Fund and dedicated one-tenth of one percent (0.01%) of state income tax revenue to fund housing programs.
Proposition #124 – Concerning Liquor Licenses
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning increasing the number of retail liquor store licenses in which a person may hold an interest, and, in connection therewith, phasing in the increase by allowing up to 8 licenses by December 31, 2026, up to 13 licenses by December 31, 2031, up to 20 licenses by December 31, 2036, and an unlimited number of licenses on or after January 1, 2037?”
A ”yes” vote supports increasing the number of retail liquor store licenses in which a person may hold an interest.
A “no” vote opposes increasing the number of retail liquor store licenses in which a person may hold an interest.
Proposition #125 – Sale of Alcohol Beverages
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning the expansion of retail sale of alcohol beverages, and, in connection therewith, establishing a new fermented malt beverage and wine retailer license for off-site consumption to allow grocery stores, convenience stores, and other business establishments licensed to sell fermented malt beverages, such as beer, for off-site consumption to also sell wine; automatically converting such a fermented malt beverage retailer license to the new license; and allowing fermented malt beverage and wine retailer licensees to conduct tastings if approved by the local licensing authority?”
A ”yes” vote supports the expansion of retail sale of alcohol beverages to business currently permitted to sell beer, including grocery and convenience stores, to include wine and fermented malt beverages, subject local licensing approval.
A “no” vote opposes the expansion of retail sale of alcohol beverages to business currently permitted to sell beer, including grocery and convenience stores, to include wine and fermented malt beverages, subject local licensing approval.
Proposition #126 – Third-Party Delivery of Alcohol Beverages
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning authorization for the third-party delivery of alcohol beverages, and, in connection therewith, allowing retail establishments licensed to sell alcohol beverages for on-site or off-site consumption to deliver all types of alcohol beverages to a person twenty-one years of age or older through a third-party delivery service that obtains a delivery service permit; prohibiting the delivery of alcohol beverages to a person who is under 21 years of age, is intoxicated, or fails to provide proof of identification; removing the limit on the percentage of gross sales revenues a licensee may receive from alcohol beverage deliveries; and allowing a technology services company, without obtaining a third-party delivery service permit, to provide software or a digital network application that connects consumers and licensed retailers for the delivery of alcohol beverages?”
A ”yes” vote supports the allowance of licensed alcohol beverage retailers to engage third parties for the delivery of alcohol beverages and associated technologies without obtaining a separate license.
A “no” vote opposes the allowance of licensed alcohol beverage retailers to engage third parties for the delivery of alcohol beverages and associated technologies without obtaining a separate license.
Legislature Referred Measures (Ballot numbers subject to change)
Proposition FF – Reduce Income Tax Deduction Amounts to Fund School Meals Program Measure
“Shall state taxes be increased $100,727,820 annually by a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes that, to support healthy meals for public school students, increases state taxable income only for individuals who have federal taxable income of $300,000 or more by limiting itemized or standard state income tax deductions to $12,000 for single tax return filers and $16,000 for joint tax return filers, and, in connection therewith, creating the healthy school meals for all program to provide free school meals to students in public schools; providing grants for participating schools to purchase Colorado grown, raised, or processed products, to increase wages or provide stipends for employees who prepare and serve school meals, and to create parent and student advisory committees to provide advice to ensure school meals are healthy and appealing to all students; and creating a program to assist in promoting Colorado food products and preparing school meals using basic nutritious ingredients with minimal reliance on processed products?”
A ”yes” vote supports this ballot measure to:
reduce income tax deduction amounts for those earning $300,000 or more from $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers; and
create and fund the Healthy School Meals for All Programto reimburse participating schools to provide free meals to students and provide schools with local food purchasing grants and school food-related funding.
A “no” vote opposes this measure to create the Healthy School Meals for All Program to reimburse participating schools for free meals provided to students and provide schools with food-related funding, thereby leaving in place the existing income tax deduction caps of $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers whose income is $400,000 or more.
Proposition GG –Colorado Include Income Tax Effects in Initiative Ballot Language Measure
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring that the ballot title and fiscal summary for any ballot initiative that increases or decreases state income tax rates include a table showing the average tax change for tax filers in different income categories?”
A “yes” vote supports requiring the ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for initiatives that affect income taxes to include information on how the change would affect income taxes for different categories of income.
A “no” vote opposes this measure to change the requirements for initiative ballot language, thereby leaving in place the existing requirements for ballot initiative fiscal impact statements and not requiring ballot titles to include a table of tax changes.
Amendment D – Twenty-Third Judicial District Amendment
“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning judges of the newly created twenty-third judicial district, and, in connection therewith, directing the governor to designate judges from the eighteenth judicial district to serve the remainder of their terms in the twenty-third judicial district and requiring a judge so designated to establish residency within the twenty-third judicial district?”
A ”yes” vote supports this constitutional amendment to:
direct the governor to assign judges from the 18th Judicial District to the new 23rd Judicial District by November 30, 2024, and
require these judges to establish residence in the new 23rd Judicial District by January 7, 2025.
A “no” vote opposes directing the governor to reassign judges from the 18th Judicial District to the new 23rd Judicial District and requiring the judges to establish residence by January 7, 2025.
Amendment E –Homestead Exemption to Surviving Spouses of U.S. Armed Forces Members and Veterans Amendment
“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the extension of the property tax exemption for qualifying seniors and disabled veterans to the surviving spouse of a United States armed forces service member who died in the line of duty or veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease?”
A “yes” vote supports extending an existing primary residency property tax exemption available to qualifying seniors and disabled veterans to the surviving spouses of military service members who died in the line of duty and the surviving spouses of veterans who died as a result of service-related injury or disease.
A “no” vote opposes this amendment to extend an existing primary residency property tax exemption available to qualifying seniors and disabled veterans to the surviving spouses of military service members who died in the line of duty and the surviving spouses of veterans who died as a result of service-related injury or disease.
Amendment F – Charitable Gaming Amendment
“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the conduct of charitable gaming activities, and, in connection therewith, allowing managers and operators to be paid and repealing the required period of a charitable organization’s continuous existence before obtaining a charitable gaming license?”
A “yes” vote supports amending the constitution to do the following:
repeal the ban on paying managers and operators of charitable gaming activities and limit compensation amounts to the applicable minimum wage until July 1, 2024;
allow the legislature to determine in statute how long an organization must exist before obtaining a charitable gaming license after January 1, 2025;
reduce from 5 years to 3 years the length of time an organization must exist before obtaining a charitable gaming license through January 1, 2025.
A “no” vote opposes this amendment, thereby leaving in place the existing ban on paying managers and operators and the existing requirement that organizations must exist for at least 5 years before obtaining a license.
An NCLA Debrief on Key Issues Affecting NoCo Business
In an ever-evolving political landscape, the 2022 Legislative Session finally ended on May 11. After three years of policy turmoil for Colorado’s business sector, the session offered a mixed bag of policy outcomes on the key issues affecting businesses in Northern Colorado.
In important areas, namely environment and labor policy matters, the policy decisions emerging from the 2022 legislative session will contribute to a further erosion of Colorado’s competitiveness. As reported last fall, Colorado dropped from the 11th most business-friendly state to No. 29 in just one cycle of CNBC’s Top States for Business Rating. The Metro Denver EDC estimated that this decline is in large part due to our policy environment.
There were some bright spots in an otherwise dim session. NCLA’s highest priority to backfill the fully depleted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and repay the federal UI loan was accomplished with a $600M commitment from the available ARPA dollars addresses over a quarter of the $2B hole and will forestall the imposition of a UI Premium Surcharge upon businesses across the state.
North I25 Coalition and Legislators sent letters to Governor Polis and the Transportation Commission to reconsider the Decision to Not Pursue IIJA Mega Grant Funding for North I25
The NCLA’s Fix North I-25 Business Alliance, the North I-25 Coalition and 16 State Legislators representing Larimer, Weld and Adams County sent letters this week to the Colorado Transportation Commission, the Governor Jared Polis and CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew expressing dismay at the apparent decision not to pursue federal MEGA grant funding for the North I-25 Corridor available from the passage of the massive federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The Alliance and Coalition letter notes, “The North I-25 multi-modal corridor — stretching from north of Fort Collins south through the North Metro suburbs of Thornton and Northglenn — serves as the spine of Colorado’s Front Range, the essential national multimodal freight corridor linking interstate commerce, and is a critical national defense asset. It substantially serves as the economic connector of Colorado’s fastest-growing region – northern Colorado”.
EPA Shifts Region to “Severe” Non-Attainment Status The EPA has begun the formal process of moving the Denver Metro/North Front Range Non-Attainment Area to a “Severe” rating from “Serious”. When approved, the status will trigger a myriad of costly and more stringent air quality measures and requirements across the region for many years. The measures will work alongside ongoing monitoring to reduce GHG within a 6-year time horizon.
Among the measures that are anticipated are:
The use of reformulated gasoline in the summer months
Projected to increase cost of gas by 40 – 50 cents per gallon’
A reduction of the threshold that requires control measures on emissions sources from 50 tons per year to 25 tons per year
Will trigger requirement for new state permits for emissions for 473 new emission sources than currently permitted
Any improvements to air quality demonstrated in the next few years as a result of policy and regulatory measures advanced by the Governor’s administration and legislators in the last two years will be applied to consideration of a reversal of the severe status at the next 5 year interval but were not factored in EPAs determination to move to a “Severe” status. Such policy and regulatory changes include new limits on emissions from oil and gas operations (SB 19-181), demands and plans for the closure of coalfired power plants (HB 19-1261), policies and funding to accelerate electric vehicle sales (SB 21-260, others), and new Colorado Department of Transportation rules on reducing emissions when planning major road projects (SB 21-260).