Nebraska lawmakers OK road funding bill

| 5/13/2011

Nebraska lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Dave Heineman to address the state’s highway funding shortfall.

The Legislature voted 33-10 this week to approve a major roads funding bill – LB84 – that would use a new source of revenue to get work done.

To help address a highway funding gap the state has estimated to grow to $9.2 billion during the next 20 years, the Legislature voted 33-10 this week to approve a major road funding bill that would use a new source of revenue to get work done. The state now relies solely on user fees, such as fuel taxes.

Sen. Deb Fischer, of Valentine, pushed her initiative through the statehouse. It calls for taking one-quarter of a cent of the 5.5-cent state sales tax each year for the next two decades and earmarking it for highway construction.

A projected $65 million a year – an estimated $1.3 billion over 20 years – could be deposited into a newly created State Highway Capital Improvement Fund. The fund would benefit high-priority improvement and reconstruction projects throughout the state.

“I believe now is the time to make a commitment to our citizens that we will continue to provide safe and reliable highways,” Fischer said in a recent statement.

The governor has expressed reservations about diverting sales tax revenue away from education and social services. Citing concerns about the economy, he asked lawmakers to revisit the issue down the road.

Nevertheless, Fischer was able to convince lawmakers to act. She cited fewer dollars available from the fuel tax available for roads.

The switch wouldn’t take effect until 2013. Fischer included the delayed implementation to allow the state to recover from the recession and give the NDOR time to get projects ready.

A new state highway fund would get 85 percent of the money. The rest of the new revenue would go into a highway allocation fund.

At least 25 percent of the revenue allotted to the state highway fund would be used for construction of the expressway system and for federally designated high-priority projects.

Heineman has until early next week to decide whether he will sign or veto the bill. If vetoed, 30 votes would be needed to override.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Nebraska, click here.

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