Category Archives: Finance

Congestion pricing in the Mountain West?

The debate on how to improve the traffic situation on I-70 from Denver into the mountains continues in the Senate Transportation Committee meeting room today as bills from opposite sides of the legislative aisle get consideration.

Although the two bills are sponsored by Sens. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, it is worth noting that they are both proposing road or congestion pricing for the I-70 corridor. They disagree on the details of how such a framework would operate and how revenues might be re-invested, but the foundation of their proposals seem to cross political ideology — use market forces to manage an increasingly scare resource (otherwise known as road capacity).

There may be a number of reasons these proposals are on the committee table now rather than after groups such as the I-70 Coalition have made their recommendations, but that’s a reality of the legislative process. Nevertheless, the combination of successful congestion pricing programs in London and Stockholm and the proposals for similar programs in New York City and San Francisco make the idea a powerful one that will likely become a part of the package for I-70 regardless of the outcome of the Romer and McElhany bills this year.

The reality of decreasing transportation funding from gas taxes, increasing construction costs, and limited geography is making congestion pricing an increasingly viable tool to manage traffic and congestion in communities and on highways.

As Gordon Price, transportation Planner and former City Councilor in Vancouver, has commented, “congestion turns out to be an inevitable consequence when the private sector produces and unlimited number of vehicles and expects the public sector to spend limited resources to build an unlimited amount of space for them to run on.”

Put another way, the age of “freeways” is drawing to a close in the Mountain West.


Communities innovate to provide health insurance

[…] Healthy San Francisco, is the first effort by a locality to guarantee care to all of its uninsured [82,000 resident], and it represents the latest attempt by state and local governments to patch a inadequate federal system.

It is financed mostly by the city, which is gambling that it can provide universal and sensibly managed care to the uninsured for about the amount being spent on their treatment now, often in emergency rooms.

After a two-month trial at two clinics in Chinatown, the program is scheduled to expand citywide to 20 more locations on Sept. 17.

Whether such a program might be replicated elsewhere is difficult to assess. In addition to its unique political culture, San Francisco, with a population of about 750,000, has the advantages of compact geography, a unified city-county government, an extensive network of public and community clinics and a relatively small number of uninsured adults. Virtually all the city’s children are covered by private insurance or government plans.

Read the full article . . .

The confusing directives of CO school financing

Mark Counch’s article “Poorest pay more school taxes,” in the April 9th Denver Post is a facsinating analysis of the impacts of competing constitutional ammendents on school financing in Colorado.

The article discusses how state goals of equilizing per student funding across the state combined with the constitutional amendments such as TABOR, Gallagher, and Amendment 23 have created an odd financing equation that ironically eases school spending demands on wealthier communities more than poorer ones.

As the article illustrates, since at least1993, “Colorado taxpayers have picked up an increasing share of the cost of educating children in some of the state’s wealthiest school districts. Although the state’s share of school bills in poorer districts has also grown, homeowners in those districts are paying higher property-tax bills than they used to pay.”

Although the amendments all seemed like good ideas at the time, their combination and location in the state constitution will continue to create headaches for legislators, the Governor, and taxpayers for the forseeable future.

Read the full article . . .

Read Ten Years of Tabor by The Bell Policy Center (PDF)

School Finance
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Summit County votes for affordable housing

This summer, when Summit Housing Authority Board decided to put a funding question on the ballot, the polls did not look particularly good.

The proposed combination of a new sales tax and impact fees – fees assessed on new construction based on square footage – was the most popular scenario among respondents, but garnered support from only 47 percent of those surveyed.

The sales tax increase of 12.5 cents per hundred dollars will raise about $1.4 million. The graduated impact fees start at zero for smaller units and go up to $2 per square foot for units bigger than 5,000 square-feet, generating an expected $2 million the first year.

With projected funding of up to $3.4 million the first year, the new Multi-jurisdictional Housing Authority (MJHA) hopes to gear and build up to 50 units of affordable housing per year.

Read the full article by Bob Berwyn . . .

Carbondale aims to be renewable energy Mecca

While the western portion of Garfield County is booming with oil and gas development, and the associated environmental impacts, the eastern end of the county is looking in a different direction for energy production.

Carbondale Question 2F on the Nov. 7 ballot will ask voters to allow the town of Carbondale to issue up to $1.8 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to construct and operate two large-scale solar systems.

The proposed systems would provide about 250 kilowatts (KW) of power. One of the systems would be the largest solar system in western Colorado.

Voting “yes” on 2F will increase the town’s debt, but will not raise local taxes. Revenue from the solar systems will pay off the bonds over the next 20 years. And, under a provision of the 2005 Energy Incentives Tax Act, the interest on the CREBs will be paid by the U.S. Government.

Carbondale trustees unanimously decided to pursue the CREBs after the town’s advisory environmental board produced the Carbondale Energy Plan earlier this year. The plan outlines specific ways Carbondale can reduce its contribution to global warming.

The CREBs will fund two separate solar projects, one for 50 kilowatts (KW) and one for 200 KW. The 50 KW system will be located at the Carbondale Elementary School (the town is in negotiations with the school district to purchase the property) or the new recreation center and the larger system will be located either at Colorado Rocky Mountain School or at the town’s Roaring Fork water plant.

Read full article by Gina Guarascio . . .

Meanwhile Boulder considers a Carbon Tax . . .

Carbondale uses energy franchise fees to finance energy plan

Carbondale town trustees unanimously agreed last month to move ahead with the town of Carbondale Energy and Climate Protection Plan (energy plan) by allocating $140,000 in the 2007 budget to fund the initiative.

The money comes from franchise fees paid by Xcel, Holy Cross and KN Energy to operate in town. The fees vary every year but usually come out to about $150,000.

The Carbondale Environmental Board came up with the energy plan and originally presented it to the trustees in May. It is a comprehensive document that includes facts and figures on the town’s consumption of energy and things that can be done to minimize Carbondale’s effect on global climate change.

In May, the trustees directed town staff to come up with a strategy to implement the energy plan. Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker agreed with the recommendation from the Environmental Board that a staff person must be committed to implementing the plan and money allocated for the plan to be successful.

Baker recommended that the town contract with the non profit Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) to implement the plan instead of hiring another town employee.

The town has also applied for more that $1.5 million from the federal government in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB). The interest on the bonds would be paid by the government as part of the 2005 federal energy bill.

The town would need to put the question to the voters if they decide to pursue the bonds, and they have taken the necessary steps with the Garfield County Clerk to ensure that the question could be on the ballot this November.

Read the full article in the Valley Journal . . .