The Regional Transportation District and the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District would expand their sales-taxing power to include items that previously only the state could touch under a bill moving through the legislature.
House Bill 1272, which must pass one more vote in House before moving on to the Senate, aligns the two sales-tax collecting districts' powers with the state, allowing them to tax items including candy and soft drinks, cigarettes, direct-mail advertising material and food containers.
If passed, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Dickie Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, and Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, would lead to a net increase of about 0.6 percent in sales and use tax revenue for RTD and SCFD. In RTD's case, it would raise an additional $2.7 million annually.
RTD officials said that will help fund the expansion of the FasTracks commuter rail project, particularly the portion headed for Adams County.
"It does benefit RTD and it will be another funding mechanism for FasTracks, allowing us to move forward," RTD board member Chuck Sisk said.
Sisk, who joined a majority of the RTD board members earlier this week in voting for a resolution backing the bill, said the measure is not a tax increase but merely expands the till RTD can dip into.
"Our electors voted for an RTD tax and this refines that," Sisk said. "It just levels the playing field for us."
Other board members see the measure as a tax increase that was not put to public vote.
"This is another $2.7 million a year that is coming out of people's pockets and a lot of those people are suffering from some pretty hard times," said board member Natalie Menten.
Both Menten and board member Barbara Deadwyler voted against the resolution. Menten said she will speak against the bill when it comes up in the Senate.
Meanwhile, a bill that allows RTD to get out of the parking lot business is on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk for his signature. Senate Bill 027 allows private companies to lease, own or operate a public parking lot or garage at or near an RTD mass transit station.
Currently, RTD can't use private firms for improvements at transit stations. House sponsor Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, said the measure helps RTD focus on moving people and not on parking cars.
Letting private firms deal with the cost of operating parking lots will save RTD money, Priola said.