Legislature’s top priorities for the 2017 legislative session should be fixing the state’s transportation
funding crisis and the construction litigation abuses that have contributed to a lack of affordable housing
options. And, in fact, those two topics have dominated discussions at the highest levels of leadership in
both the Democrat-controlled State House of Representatives and the Republican State Senate.
Colorado’s frenetic growth has lead to record unmet transportation needs as congestion worsens and
maintenance lags behind. Colorado is one of the few states not spending general funds on roads, instead
relying almost exclusively on declining state and federal gas tax revenues. One emerging proposal with a
chance for bi-partisan support would dedicate an increase in the state’s sales tax to transportation. Some
in the near term. But a number of contentious issues still need to be worked out. How much of the
additional revenue should be dedicated to transit versus pavement? Will the gas tax be reduced to mitigate
some of the impact of increasing the sales tax? Will the voters even approve such tax increase? Those and
other issues have yet to be resolved and could scuttle any potential deal.
Another impact of Colorado’s strong growth is quickly rising home prices. While affordable condos and
other multi-family housing units often provide a more attainable option for many, very few such units
have been built in Colorado over the last decade because of out-of- control lawsuits against developers and
contractors. As a result, insurance for such projects are often unaffordable or even unavailable. A number
of bills – some with bi-partisan support – have been floated. Some attempt to speed the resolution of such
lawsuits through arbitration, while another seeks to reduce contractor insurance rates by streamlining the
costly defense process in a lawsuit. The only thing clear at this point is that no one bill will solve this very
complicated problem. But the legislature does have a chance to take a few small steps forward in 2017.