Nebraska lawmakers approve road revenue boost

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, April 14, 2016

The state of Nebraska is getting a significant revenue boost to pay for road and bridge work, as well as complete the state’s four-lane expressway system.

The Legislature voted unanimously to advance a bill to the governor that would raise one-half of a billion dollars to be spent over 17 years by the state Department of Roads. The additional revenue would be routed to roads using transfers from the state’s rainy day fund and from state fuel taxes.

Sponsored by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion at the request of Gov. Pete Ricketts, the bill creates and funds a transportation infrastructure bank to provide up-front money to get road work done sooner.

A one-time transfer of $50 million will be made available from the state’s cash reserve account to help get work completed on roads, bridges, and the state’s expressway system.

Smith says the bill is a major step toward fixing many of the state’s roads and bridges that have fallen into disrepair. He adds that the bill also speeds completion of the state’s expressway system, which has been under construction for nearly three decades.

Sen. John Stinner of Gering agreed.

“I am not sure anything we do as legislators can be any more impactful on our economy both in the short and long term than expressway construction and completion,” Stinner stated.

The governor initially sought three times that amount. In exchange for trimming the amount requested, the committee voted to authorize additional revenue for the infrastructure bank via the state’s 2-cent fuel tax increase approved one year ago.

The annual tax shift is estimated to raise at least $450 million through 2033. At that time, the program would sunset.

The governor’s office spent the weeks before a committee vote shoring up support for the plan he describes as an important infrastructure initiative for the state.

“We have successfully agreed upon improvements ... which will direct additional funding towards accelerated roads construction,” Ricketts said in prepared remarks.

Also approved at the statehouse is a bill to exempt certain agricultural vehicles from weight and load limitations.

LB977 exempts implements of animal husbandry – such as tractors, fertilizer spreaders and mixer-feed trucks – from weight and load limitations on state highways.

The exemption does not apply to vehicles on the interstate or in any instance where such an implement crosses a bridge or culvert.

In addition, the bill retains 1 percent of proceeds from the motor vehicle tax to fund the replacement and ongoing maintenance of a state vehicle title and registration system.

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

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