We’d like to thank the Denver Business Journal for affirming what we’ve said all along – FASTER fees are a tax in disguise. Yesterday when reporting on a scathing audit of how FASTER dollars are spent, the Denver Business Journal basically predicted our post:
“Critics who have accused Colorado’s FASTER transportation-fee program of being a tax in disguise and of paying for projects requested by people with connections aren’t likely to back down on their contentions after Monday’s release of a state audit on the six-year-old program.”
So, we’re not going to waste time typing “we told you so” over and over, but, instead, will jump right into the audit’s findings. Here’s what’s wrong:
- Bridges marked as higher-priority for repair are inexplicably repaired after lower priority bridges.
- State officials are cooking the books as described by the DBJ: “State officials also are over-budgeting many of the bridge projects and taking more than a year to close them out, leaving money unavailable for other projects on the to-do list.”
- Fees meant for construction and maintenance of roads are used for unrelated projects, which actually is more like a general tax. If it’s a general tax, it should go to a vote of Coloradans.
- The Colorado Department of Transportation jettisoned a citizens’ oversight committee in 2013 claiming it was inefficient; however, a 2009 law required the committee exist.
- Directly from the report: “CDOT spent $10.7 million on projects that may not have met legislative requirements for FASTER safety revenue and CDOT could not confirm how an additional $6 million was allocated or spent.”
- The audit reviewed eight transit contracts awarded and six of those contracts did not comply with the State Procurement Code. Our translation? There is a likelihood that a few shady deals may have passed through CDOT.
State Senator Chris Holbert, a state legislator who demanded an audit of this committee, was not surprised by the audit’s findings. Here is his reaction to the report:
“CDOT had six years to prove that we critics of FASTER were wrong. They failed. [The audit] proved, once again, that dollars are fungible. A ‘fee’ dollar in the coffers looks and spends just like a tax dollar. People are increasingly frustrated with the poor condition of our roads and bridges; yet, CDOT has caused greater distrust among taxpayers.”
If Governor Hickenlooper and his band of merry taxers participating in the
Committee to Undo TABOR Building a Better Colorado wonder why Coloradans don’t want to give him and his party free rein to tax and spend, they need look no further than this audit.