Congress takes back $114 million in road funds from Colorado

Despite efforts by Colorado lawmakers, the federal government took back $114.7 million in transportation funding authority from Colorado just before midnight on Wednesday.

Officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation said it may still be a few days before they know what projects, if any, will be affected by the take back or “rescission” of federal cash. Though CDOT set aside about $230 million this year to offset state and federal cuts, certain programs could still be affected, depending on how much the federal government took from each of the state’s funds.

“CDOT is awaiting official notification from the Federal Highway Administration as to the exact amounts rescinded, we believe real dollars will be affected in certain programs,” federal liason Mickey Ferrell wrote in an email.

Meantime, there is still a chance the money could be returned, possibly in the new surface transportation act, when it is authorized, according to the Denver Business Journal:

In a statement Thursday, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he was “not giving up.”…

He said he and his Colorado colleague, Sen. Michael Bennet, “have been pushing for that agreement for many months, and I was very disappointed when three Republicans blocked it. Because of this obstruction by a few senators, the fiscal year ended without approval of the agreement, which could potentially cost the states billions of dollars in important transportation funding.”

Congress wrote the $8.7 billion rescission into the law in order to squeeze the Act under 2005 budget limits. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, the intent was to eventually find offsets to prevent the payback from taking effect, but Congress never found those offsets.

Members of Colorado’s delegation to the House have also been working to fight the rescission. Earlier this month, six of Colorado’s seven members of Congress signed onto a letter pleading for a repeal of the rescission. Republican Doug Lamborn, CO5, was the exception, and he declined to comment on the matter.

But when a three-month extension of the nation’s surface transportation act, known as SAFETEA-LU, (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, and Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users) passed the House, it included the rescission.

Congresswomen Betsy Markey, D-CO4, and Diana DeGette, D-CO1, and Congressmen Ed Perlmutter, D-CO7, Jared Polis, D-CO2, and John Salazar, D-CO3, all voted for a three-month extension of the nation’s surface transportation act, despite concerns over the rescission. They said they would continue to work on the matter, but they argued that the nation couldn’t afford to have all transportation funding screech to a halt on Oct. 1.

Congressman Mike Coffman, R-CO6, voted against the extension, in protest over the House’s failure to write a new surface transportation act. Congressman Lamborn also voted against the extension.

Ultimately, both houses of Congress agreed on a one-month extension which, while it does not repeal the rescission, funds U.S. Department of Transportation dollars through the end of October.

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