NACS Daily News - DENVER – After a two-and-a-half hour meeting with Senate State Affairs Chairman Rollie Heath the day before HB-1136, “Prohibition on the Use of Public Land For Retail Sales,” was due to be heard in the senate committee, the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association (CWPMA) decided to table its own bill. The bill sought to assure that governmental entities were required to utilize fair market value guidelines when utilizing taxpayer dollars to sell transportation fuels at retail. The bill passed the House on a bi-partisan vote of 37-28.
The bill prohibited any governmental entity from selling transportation fuels directly to the public at retail. However, the CWPMA recognized the need for new alternative fuels to aggregate demand among public and private fleets, and provided guidelines for public/private partnerships that would assure a level playing field should a private industry, taxpaying competitor decided to enter that market. Unfortunately, the meeting with Heath revealed his and his parties intention to allow taxpayer dollars to be spent by governmental entities to compete against private industry taxpaying companies.
In the meeting, Heath announced that he would remove compressed natural gas (CNG) and electricity for electric vehicles (EVs) from the bill. Heath stated this intention after listening to the Colorado Municipal League state that they opposed being prohibited from using taxpayer subsidized dollars to sell to the public at retail, in competition against taxpaying private industry.
Other interests attended the meeting, too. The Environmental Coalition brazenly stated that it was government’s role to subsidize the build-out of CNG and EV fueling infrastructure. The Colorado Department of Transportation complained that the bill would prohibit them from commercializing rest areas on interstate highways, thus allowing them to compete against interchange small businesses.
The Colorado Counties Inc. claimed that this is not an issue the state needs to be addressing via legislation, but they also do not oppose being able to sell to the public directly at retail. Encana Energy stated that they don’t care who sells their gas, they just want to sell it. Finally, the privately developed but taxpayer-subsidized E-470 Authority opposed the bill because it would prohibit them from developing abandoned tolling booths into retail establishments — again in competition with taxpaying small businesses down the road.
CWPMA worked tirelessly to craft a bill that simply proposed three provisions: 1) Backstopping the current federal prohibition of commercializing interstate rest areas; 2) Prohibiting governmental entities from utilizing taxpayer dollars to sell transportation fuels directly to the public at retail, and 3) initiating guidelines that must be included contractually (i.e. personal property taxes, shared specialized equipment costs, etc.) if public/private partnerships are utilized. The guidelines are needed for taxpaying businesses to maintain a level playing field when competing against a public/private partnership.
“CWPMA was taken aback by the unabashed demands of state, cities, counties, environmental communities and transportation authorities to be allowed to utilize taxpayer dollars to directly compete against the very taxpayers paying those dollars,” said Mark Larson, executive director of the association. “This complete disdain for taxpaying small business and a lack of recognition of how such practices would actually impede CNG and EV build-out, obviated an agenda by local governments, the environmental community and Senate Democrats to socialize transportation fuels delivery.”
Electric vehicles in Colorado pay no excise taxes that build and maintain the state’s highways. EVs also receive substantial incentives and tax breaks to vehicle purchasers. CNG vehicles pay only for a permit that is approximately one-tenth of the actual taxes most CNG vehicles should be paying to use the state's highways.
“Yet, these governmental and environmental entities want to take these advantages one step further and allow governmental entities to sell these fuels at retail while also using taxpayer dollars to build high cost infrastructure for virtually non-existent vehicles. No amount of testimony regarding how this approach would harm small business petroleum marketers, including the taxes that would be avoided by these partnerships, was given any consideration whatsoever,” said Larson.
“Rather than allowing the committee chairman, his party and the above referenced ‘advocates’ to pontificate and extol all the alleged benefits for alternative fuels while completely ignoring the long term implications for taxpaying small business marketers and local government tax coffers, we decided to kill the bill without testimony.”
The association will launch a campaign to educate the public and help determine if the average taxpayer believes government should be selling to the public at retail, competing against small-business taxpaying competitors.