Judge dismisses Colorado’s motion to stop lawsuit on transportation fees



(The Center Square) – A judge verbally denied a motion by the state of Colorado to throw out a lawsuit challenging a 2021 law that increased fees to fund transportation projects.

Americans for Prosperity, Advance Colorado Institute, former Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, now a member of the Logan County Commission, and Richard Orman, former prosecutor in the 18th Judicial District, filed the lawsuit against the state last year.

On Wednesday, Denver District Court Judge Andrew Luxen denied the state’s request to throw out the suit. The plaintiffs argue Senate Bill 21-260 will raise more than $5 billion in new revenue without any approval by the voters as required under law. Proposition 117, passed by voters in 2020, requires voter approval for any new state enterprises projected to bring in $100 million in revenue in five years.

The new fees are added to electric vehicle registrations, gasoline and diesel purchases, retail deliveries, passenger ride services, and short-term vehicle rentals. The law indexes new and existing fees either to inflation or to the national highway construction costs index and requires an executive agency review of fees in 2026.

“Voters passed Proposition 117 to make sure they had a say when it comes to big fees,” Michael Fields, president of Advance Colorado Institute, a conservative advocacy group, said in a statement following the judge’s ruling. “Since SB-260 is a $5.4 billion fee increase over the next decade, voter approval was necessary before it could become law. We are happy to see the judge deny the motion to dismiss and allow this important case to continue.”

The 163-page bill, signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in June 2021, creates new sources of dedicated funding and new state enterprises to fund transportation infrastructure updates and modernization, according to the bill’s summary. The bill’s 21-page fiscal note estimated total revenue at $200.4 million in the current fiscal year.

“The bill increases state and local government revenue and expenditures on an ongoing basis, and raises the state’s revenue limit under [Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights],” the fiscal note stated.

“For four years, the Polis administration and legislature have attempted to circumvent taxpayers at every turn,” Jesse Mallory, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Colorado, said in a statement. “…Voters should be making these decisions – not politicians. We will continue to educate voters across the state on our work until the power is back to voters, where it belongs.”

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