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First of two road funding bills qualify for November ballot

Get used to some cursing about Colorado roads, even when you're not driving.

A proposal to fund roads in Colorado just made the November ballot by a group called "Fix Our Damn Roads".

"We have so much money in this state, it is time we use it to fix our damn roads," said Jon Caldara, the leader of the ballot proposal the head of the Independence Institute, a Libertarian think tank. "What 'Fix Our Damn Roads' does, it causes the state legislature to do their damn job and prioritize transportation spending."

On Wednesday, the Secretary of State's Office determined that "Fix Our Damn Roads" collected enough signatures to get the road funding issue qualified for the November ballot. The proposal would allow the state to bond -- essentially take out a loan for -- $3.5 billion. The proposal that voters will see on their ballot also spells out 66 highway projects that would be required to be funded. However, those projects total $5.6 billion.

"That only allows for about $3.5 billion worth of funding, so naturally one of the things that we'll have to do is take that list and we'll have to pare it down a little bit," said Amy Ford, the spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation. "We know, and it's been established with everyone, that that $5.6 billion list on there currently is not something that can be funded with the $3.5 billion."

CDOT is not taking a position on this ballot issue, nor are they taking a position on a second road funding proposal that has not yet been certified for the November ballot. The Secretary of State's Office is still counting signatures for that second proposal, which would raise the state's sales tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent, and would fund more than $6 billion in road projects, including highways and local roads.

According to an analysis done by the state legislative council, this plan would cost an average household an additional $130 per year.

"The most simple way to put it, voters will have a choice between two roads initiatives. One is a tax increase. One is not a tax increase," said Caldara.

If both make the ballot, voters could approve both, vote yes on one and not the other, or reject both.

Caldara is cheering for the sales tax increase proposal to also make the ballot because it could help advertise his proposal.

"We have millions in our campaign account," Caldera said sarcastically. "Let me put it this way: we have enough money to print out a flyer and hand it to about 38 Coloradans."

Based on campaign filings, as of Aug. 1, the "Fix Our Dam Roads" campaign had $48,000 cash on hand. The campaign "Coloradans for Coloradans" which supports the sales tax increase proposal has $500,000 cash on hand.

"Having both of these proposals on the ballot, voters get a clear choice," said Caldara.

According to CDOT, Caldara's proposal also repeals the funding that the state legislature recently passed to help build new roads.

"That takes, approximately, another $1.5 billion of projects that we were starting to move forward with off the table," said Ford. "Total value of projects that we would move forward should [Initiative] 167 pass is about $2 billion."

Next reached out to a political attorney to find out what happens if voters approve a $3.5 billion bonding proposal to fund $5.6 billion in specific road projects. The attorney said it is not clear if the state would be required to fund the projects it doesn't have the money for, but it might take a legal challenge to find out.