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Colorado Highway Users Conference Opposes Amendment 23

Tue October 31, 2000 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

The Colorado Highway Users Conference joined opponents of school-funding Amendment 23 recently because of its potential impact on roads.

"If Amendment 23 passes, causing a shortfall of highway monies, our construction program will fall behind — five to 10 years in some cases," said Norm Sherbert, executive director of the 65-member group, made up largely of trucking and construction industry representatives.

The school measure — designed to make up for a decade of state funding that failed to keep pace with inflation — would require the state to increase school funds by 1 percent plus inflation over each of the next 10 years and by the rate of inflation thereafter.

The highway users group is the latest in a growing group of opponents to the ballot proposal, including Gov. Bill Owens, State Treasurer Mike Coffman and University of Northern Colorado President Hank Brown.

Supporters include the Colorado Education Association. They argue that additional school funding is badly needed, pointing out that Colorado spends $5,500 for each student, below the national average of $5,873.

However, what concerns the highway users group is that a quirk in the law would divert $200.4 million currently earmarked for state highway construction and repairs into the new state education fund that Amendment 23 could create.

The result, they say, would be a delay in major projects. Colorado voters tried to avoid that when more than 60 percent voted last year to let the state sell bonds to speed up highway construction.

"These projects are not just in the Denver area," Sherbert said. "They include roadways in Colorado Springs, I-25 north to Fort Collins, U.S. 50 from Grand Junction to Delta and U.S. 287 in the southeastern part of the state.

State Transportation Commissioner Joe Jehn, a member of the highway users group, warned that many other highway construction programs also would fall behind schedule if Amendment 23 is approved. The commission announced its opposition to the amendment on Oct. 11.

"I don’t believe this is a case of either-or," Jehn said. "That is, we don’t have to make a choice between education funding or road repairs. We can do both, but not under Amendment 23. In the past two years, the legislature has fully funded K-12 education."

Ellen Marshall, a spokeswoman for Yes on 23, counters that fully funding education for the past two years does not make up for the decade in which funding failed to keep up with inflation.

"The problem will be faced by the state whether or not Amendment 23 passes," she said.

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