State Bill subscribers can listen to the archived audio of this committee meeting by clicking on the player below. Not a subscriber? Call or e-mail Meg Satrom at 303-292-1212 or email@example.com.
By Greg Campbell, FACE THE STATE
The Legislative Audit Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to support a bill that would bring the state’s highway authorities under the scrutiny of the Office of the State Auditor. As it stands, entities such as the E-470 Highway Authority and the Northwest Parkway Public Highway Authority collect tens of millions of dollars in tolls each year, but aren’t required to submit to oversight by the state auditor.
“We were talking about some oversights that we thought needed to be taken a look at, which is why I brought this up,” the committee’s Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, said. “Sen. (Morgan) Carroll and I are both impacted by 470. It goes right through our districts. I’m not sure what the Authority is going to think of it, but we need to take a look at this. It’s part of transparency and oversight of somebody who’s collecting money (in) the state of Colorado.”
Locally created authorities aren’t automatically subject to regular performance evaluations, State Auditor Sally Symanski told the committee.
“We only have the authority to audit political subdivisions if the General Assembly gives us that authority specifically,” she said. “With respect to the authorities that can be created by local governments under various state statutes—and the public highway authorities are an example of that—that is more rare for our office to have authority at that level. … If there’s any interest on the part of the General Assembly for the state auditor to conduct a performance audit of these public highway authorities, that would require specific legislation authorizing our office to do that.”
Rep. Cindy Acree said discussions about the toll roads over the years have revolved around the issue of “how does the state maintain some oversight on those authorities?”
“I think this would be a very prudent piece of legislation to restore some confidence with our constituents that we do have some ability to monitor how those are operating,” she said.
Republican Sens. Steve King and Scott Renfroe cast the only no votes. The bill will be sponsored by Kerr in the House and by Carroll in the Senate.
John McCluskey, the executive director of E-470, declined to comment, saying he would brief the authority’s board of directors about the bill and that it would be up to them to decide whether or not to oppose it. A representative of the Northwest Parkway did not a return a phone call from Face the State.