On Monday, Governor Ritter will sign a bill that will raise car registration fees to pay for repairs to failing bridges and roads across the state.
Protecting Colorado drivers and protecting Colorado jobs -- that's what State Representative Joe Rice, (D) Littleton, says his Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery, or FASTER, bill will do.
"It's important because it's about jobs and safety," said Rice.
Friday, the State Senate gave final approval to the bill which is now on its way to the Governor's desk. The bill raises car registration fees over the next three years and is expected to generate $250 million annually that will go towards repairing 126 bridges CDOT says are unsafe.
Rice says not only is this a step in the right direction to fix the state's slumping transportation system, but also to fix its slumping economy.
"We were going to lose at least eight thousand private sector construction jobs if there were no transportation funds to keep them employed this year," said Rice. "They're going to be employed on mostly those bridges."
While State Republicans say there was never any question the bridges needed to be fixed --
"If we can't fix one-hundred twenty-six bridges, what in the world are we doing here," said Senator Josh Penry, (R) Grand Junction.
--they say they're concerned with how Democrats want to get it done.
"I'm disappointed," said Penry. "I had hoped that we would find a more balanced package."
Penry says the FASTER bill asks Colorado drivers to put too much of their money into the state's transportation fund --
"We really wanted to minimize it to the extent we could during these difficult economic times," said Penry.
--especially when the State Legislature is about to take up a bill that could pull state dollars out of it.
"I think it sends a very mixed message and I think motorists in the state are not going to be pleased," said Penry.
Under the FASTER plan, which goes into effect July 1, 2009, owners of cars and SUVs will pay an extra $32 this year, $36.50 next year, and $41 the third year.
Democrats say it's a small price to pay for something that will benefit everyone.
"Is it in my view insurmountable? No, it's not," said Rice. "And the cost of doing nothing I think is greater."
The FASTER bill also puts a $2 a day fee on rental cars in Colorado, and gives the state the power to put tolls on existing roads as long as 100 percent of the affected communities give their consent.