A controversial proposal to pump a portion of state sales tax revenue into a roads fund has passed the first two of three required votes in the unicameral.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine, would dedicate those tax dollars to roads every year for 20 years.
Senator Tyson Larson of O’Neill supports the measure. “We knew the roads bill was going to be filibustered but I also think Senator Fischer has the votes to ensure that Nebraska has healthy infrastructure moving forward,” Larson says.
“Yeah, it’s not the most ideal situation to take a quarter-cent of our sales tax and put it toward roads but something has to be done.”
Larson says lawmakers know there will be a gap in highway funding. The bill would provide funds strictly for roads maintenance, not for any new construction.
“When the state’s $986-million dollars short, we have to cut costs someplace and construction was one of those places we thought that we had to cut,” Larson says. “Though there is an immediate need, everybody’s feeling the pain.”
The bill would begin diverting sales taxes in 2013. Larson says it’s already known that Governor Dave Heineman doesn’t support the bill and may veto it.
“If he does veto it, from what I’m counting, we’ll have the votes to override his veto,” Larson says. “We often have to make those decisions, they’re sometimes unpopular ones but they’re ones we know are best for the state and best for our constituents.”
The bill needs to pass one final vote before it goes to the governor. No date is yet set for that last vote.
Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton