Backed by Transit Riders, RTD Fights to Restore Millions in Revenue Lost to Lawmakers’ Typo

GOP lawmakers are trying to turn a common sense fix into a political issue.

Joe Lamers, who is blind, speaks in favor of the Colorado legislature restoring funding Monday morning at the Capitol. Photo: David Sachs
Joe Lamers, who is blind, speaks in favor of the Colorado legislature restoring funding Monday morning at the Capitol. Photo: David Sachs

Senate Bill 267 was supposed to be a boon for RTD by allocating some marijuana tax money to Colorado’s largest transit agency. But a typo in the bill language slipped passed Republican and Democrat lawmakers, costing RTD and other special tax districts millions.

RTD is already $1.5 million below budget projections because of the snafu, according to RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova. Without a fix, the agency could lose $6 million annually and cut service for between 4,500 and 5,000 people who need access to jobs and daily necessities.

People like Joe Lamers, who is blind. He credits a successful life of education and employment to RTD’s transit service. Lamers spoke Monday at the Colorado State Capitol where legislators are convening a special session called by Governor John Hickenlooper to fix the problem.

Senate President Kevin Grantham.
Senate President Kevin Grantham

“None of those jobs could I have held and kept without RTD,” he said. “It is one of the key components that has made the wonderful life that I’ve had possible.”

What should be a simple correction has turned into an opportunity for political posturing and obstructionism by Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican. Grantham returned to the Capitol kicking and screaming about how Hickenlooper’s attempt to right an inadvertent wrong was “toying with taxpayer dollars to advance his political agenda,” according to the Denver Post. (That messaging came from Grantham’s political action committee, which used the situation to solicit donations from taxpayers.)

In real life, the special districts getting overlooked are paying for the special session.

RTD is already facing a budget crunch — but that isn’t stopping Grantham and company from using the agency as a political volleyball.

“This legislation would undo the harm created by Senate Bill 267,” said RTD District L Director Lorraine Anderson. “To do anything less would be a politically driven failure that thwarts the will of the voters who have twice overwhelmingly approved RTD funding.”

To review: Grantham, the leader of the Senate, is responsible for an error with very real repercussions for his constituents. He has the opportunity to fix it with a few days of work. But he’d rather not.

“This is a simple error,” said RTD Assistant General Manager of Communications Scott Reed. “I think all of us, once we make a mistake, we want to remedy that mistake as quickly as possible, especially if innocent people are impacted by that mistake.”