By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
A panel of lawmakers was told today that Colorado is at the bottom of the pile in managing the disposal of its old tires–and that the funds that were supposed to be used to clean up the mess have been siphoned off while old tires continue to multiply on the Colorado landscape. The lawmakers took up a measure aimed at pulling the state out from under a mountain of unwanted rubber.
House Bill 1018, sponsored by Rep. Diane Primavera, D-Broomfield, and Rep. Marcia Looper, R-Calhan, was approved by the House Transportation and Energy Committee with bipartisan support. One of the bill’s sponsors told the panel members that she wants to make sure that the money finally finds its way to its intended purpose.
“When the money is not being used for General Fund purposes, we want to make sure that waste-tire dollars are being used for the disposal of waste tires,” Looper said.
Fees collected when new tires are purchased in Colorado–originally intended to fund the proper disposal of the motorist’s old tires–have been tapped by lawmakers in recent years to shore up the the state’s operating budget as well as to provide funding for unrelated programs. It also was revealed recently that those fees have been subject to the sales tax, earning the waste-tire program further criticism.
The measure approved by the committee removes the sales tax on the fee and takes steps to make sure its proceeds make their way back to cleaning up and preventing tire piles. Several state departments now have authority over the fees. The measure moves that authority under one roof to the Department of Public Health and Environment and ensures that the money from the fees will be applied to programs that deal with the old tires. The measure also addresses burning tires and regulating the movement and location of the tires.
The bill creates an advisory committee whose members will include representatives of the tire industry and the Department of Health and Environment. The committee will be responsible for locating and tracking the tires, which according to Looper, and those from the industry who spoke at the hearing, has not been done in the past.
“It doesn’t appear that we’ve had the necessary enforcement tools–this bill gives us those tools,” said Looper, whose mostly rural, eastern El Paso County House district is among the areas plagued by tire piles.
Just before the bill passed unanimously, fellow sponsor Primavera added, “This bill is a much better start than we’ve had and I’m hopeful that it will address the problem.”
Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, expressed disappointment that money from the fee that previously had gone to a broader recycling program was taken away.
“I would have liked to see that money stay in the recycling program but I understand the need for dedicating the money towards the tire problem,” said Fischer, who chairs the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Colorado ranks third in the country for total tonnage of used tires. There are an estimated 50 million tires in Colorado that need to be disposed of.