A state senator acknowledges a plan to fund projects to ensure Nebraska continues to have abundant water will have a tough time in the legislative session.
Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege, chairman of the legislature’s Natural Resources Committee, says the first step to winning approval is driving home the importance of water.
“Water is the key to agriculture and agriculture is our number one industry, but it’s not only agriculture, it’s important to everybody in the state,” Carlson tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln, on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Carlson says the importance of water became evident during more than 20 meetings of the Water Sustainability Task Force between July and December. The legislature created the task force when it approved a bill sponsored by Carlson last session. It has 34 members, including six state senators.
The task force estimates the state needs nearly $1 billion in projects to keep water flowing for drinking, irrigation, wildlife, and even flood control and compliance with interstate water compacts.
It recommends a number of ways to raise $50 million annually.
The money, according to the task force, could be raised through lifting the sales tax exemption on soft drinks, by imposing an excise tax on ethanol, and by dedicating a portion of the state sales tax to fund water projects.
Carlson says he will bring the recommendations of the task force before the legislature next year.
“We’re going to have to ask for money, because if water issues are important, and they are, we have to have a sustainable water policy where on average we don’t use any more water than what our supply gives us,” according to Carlson.
Carlson acknowledges raising the money without raising taxes would be “a tall order.”
Carlson says he will bring the task force recommendations to the legislature, even though he might not endorse all of them.
“And I think we need to put some trial balloons out there and see what the rest of the legislature thinks.”
Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this article.