El Paso County Commissioners will decide next month whether they should skirt state law and use sales tax revenue from the proposed Copper Ridge shopping center to pay for an extension of Powers Boulevard.
It’s a bad idea.
And while the discussion next month will be about the legality of it all, there’s an even greater ideal that should be obvious to the commissioners:
Their undue and unnecessary influence on the free market.
But forget about high ethics for a minute. The fact of the matter is that our state constitution explicitly makes it illegal to use sales tax for road work.
Ignoring that, county attorneys are at the moment trying to find ways to finesse the law.
In some ways, you can’t blame them. Building the Powers extension will connect the road to Interstate 25, making Powers another beltway of sorts around the eastern edge of the city, something that has been on the county’s wish list for a long time.
That wish has never been realized because the extension is the financial responsibility of the state, and the state doesn’t seem to have money for projects like this.
Also, the proposed shopping development might provide quite a bit of sales tax revenue if it has access from Powers Boulevard and can attract big-name tenants, something many in the community doubt it has the ability to do — but that’s another story.
The issue at hand is whether our government should break the law to allow Copper Ridge developer Gary Erickson’s plans to move forward.
Doing so will come at the cost of other nearby shopping centers and small businesses that weren’t lucky enough to get government help when starting their businesses. So if they’d be right if they were to squawk about corporate welfare.
The City Council last year made the mistake of granting Erickson’s project urban renewal status. Because it is a home-rule city, Colorado Springs can pay for road projects with tax dollars. The county, however, cannot and should not.