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Rail & Coal Transition Community Economic Measures

Concerning economic measures related to coal transition communities, and, in connection therewith, creating an income tax credit for qualified costs incurred in the use of certain freight rail lines; creating an income tax credit for qualified costs incurred in the maintenance, operation, and improvement of certain rail lines; expanding the rural opportunity office's duties in relation to coal transition communities; allowing coal transition communities to qualify as enterprise zones and enhanced rural enterprise zones; restricting the length of contracts that allow use of the Moffat tunnel; restricting the ability to purchase real property interests of the Moffat tunnel improvement district; and making an appropriation.
2024 Regular Session
Fiscal Policy & Taxes
State Government
Transportation & Motor Vehicles
Bill Summary

A coal transition community is a Colorado municipality, county, or region where a Colorado coal-fueled electrical power generating plant that was in operation at any time in 2017, a Colorado coal mine that was actively producing at any time in 2017, or a center for the manufacturing or transportation supply chain of such a plant or coal mine was or is located.

Section 2 of the act expands the duties of the rural opportunity office in relation to coal transition communities by requiring the rural opportunity office, in coordination with county commissioners, municipal officials, local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations, institutions of higher education, private industry, and any local organizations dedicated to increased rail usage, to pursue opportunities for new, early stage, and existing businesses and support business and industry development and economic diversification in coordination with workforce training opportunities and existing state and federal programs that are designed for coal transition communities.

Section 3 prohibits contracts for the right to use the Moffat tunnel for more than 99 years. Section 4 allows the department of local affairs to convey or transfer ownership of all tangible property, real and personal, or any interest in property owned by the Moffat tunnel improvement district for less than fair market value if the department of local affairs finds that such a conveyance and transfer is in the public interest.

Section 5 creates 2 income tax credits. The first income tax credit is a fully refundable income tax credit (freight tax credit). The freight tax credit incentivizes taxpayers to incur costs in the use of freight rail transportation of freight that either originates or terminates at a business located in a coal transition community and on a rail line in this state that the department of transportation has determined is at risk of inactivity or abandonment due to a lack of demand resulting from coal transition (relevant costs). The Colorado office of economic development (office) administers the freight tax credit and may annually reserve up to $5 million worth of tax credits on or after January 1, 2025, but prior to January 1, 2036. A taxpayer must apply to the office for the reservation of the freight tax credit. After the office reserves the freight tax credit for a taxpayer, the office may issue the taxpayer a tax credit certificate in an amount equal to 75% of the relevant costs both stated in the taxpayer's tax credit application and incurred by the taxpayer.

The second income tax credit created in section 5 is also a fully refundable income tax credit (operator tax credit). The operator tax credit incentivizes railroad operators to maintain rail line access to coal transition communities. For income tax years 2027 through 2037, a common carrier engaged in the transportation of freight on a rail line designated by the department of transportation (department) as a "qualified rail line" is allowed a credit in an amount stated in a tax credit certificate issued by the department. The amount in a tax credit certificate must not exceed 75% of the direct operating and capital improvements necessary to maintain or improve a qualified rail line as stated in the taxpayer's tax credit application and incurred by the taxpayer. The department is required to designate a rail line as a qualified rail line if the department determines that the rail line is at risk of inactivity or abandonment and is covered by an access agreement for passenger rail access. A taxpayer must apply to the department for the issuance of an operator tax credit certificate. The department may annually issue up to $5 million of operator tax credits. The operator tax credit is subject to recapture if the taxpayer does not meet one or more of the service criteria specified in an access agreement for the qualified rail line.

Current law establishes a number of criteria for any municipality, county, or group of contiguous municipalities or counties to propose an area of such municipality, county, or group of municipalities or counties to be designated as an enterprise zone. Section 6 allows an area that is both a rural area and a tier one transition community, as defined by law, to be proposed as an enterprise zone.

A business in an enhanced rural enterprise zone can earn a tax credit for hiring new employees. Section 7 designates the portion of any county that is a tier one transition community as an enhanced rural enterprise zone.

APPROVED by Governor May 29, 2024

EFFECTIVE August 7, 2024
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)


Became Law


Bill Text

The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details