What if Gov. Ritter doesn’t hate your car?

GOP reaction to Colorado’s new FASTER car registration fees has taken a new and refreshing turn. There have been officials who oppose the fees and are horrified by them and express that horror and opposition by Twittering that the fee is really a tax and that “Gov Ritter hates your car” and by encouraging people to make signs that say “Gov Ritter hates your car.” That’s one reaction. You might call it the Rep. Kent Lambert-Colorado Springs reaction.

Now there’s an alternative you might call the GOP Commissioner Jim Bensberg-El Paso County reaction. Bensberg is term limited. He can’t run again for his office so he’s free to say something refreshing and new. How about a small tax on gasoline in place of the fees, he says, to raise much-needed revenue for the roads? He said the word “tax” and not pejoratively. He told the Denver Post he would be “pleased to join the governor” in pushing for a gas-tax increase because it spreads costs out, including to the many tourists plying the roads of the state.

Commissioner Jim Bensberg of El Paso County got out his calculator after he discovered the registration for his 1978 El Camino increased 116 percent because of a state law that went into effect July 1.

He calculated he would pay less with a gas-tax increase, and it would be more fair, too, because tourists would pay to improve Colorado’s roads.

Politicians in both parties have questioned whether voters would approve a gas-tax hike, but Bensberg said it’s time to find out.

“Colorado taxpayers should be given an opportunity to vote on a proposed gas-tax increase instead of bearing a compulsory across-the-board fee increase,” he said.

Bensberg, who is term-limited next year, added that a “modest” increase to the existing 22-cents-a-gallon tax would provide an incentive for Coloradans to use more fuel-efficient vehicles.

But the governor backed the registration fees and is getting hammered as a tax-and-spender, etc. He hates your car. Imagine if he had asked for an actual tax. Michele Malkin would have to be flown in for a pork roast / tea party riot. Not only would it be political dynamite; it would have to go to the people in the form of a ballot initiative. To raise gas by 10 cents a gallon to rescue the crumbling road infrastructure and budget, lawmakers and advocates and detractors would spend millions on campaigns for and against a tax increase that would likely fail to pass. That’s the TABOR-made reality of life in our state.

Gov. Bill Ritter pointed out this week that the legislature used to increase the gas tax and last did so in 1991. The following year, voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, requiring a vote of the people for any tax increase.

Although transportation needs have grown, Ritter said no governor since then has asked voters to increase the tax, in part because of the expense of pushing a ballot measure that many predict would go down.

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