Gov. Dave Heineman has a lukewarm reaction to a proposal to spend tens of millions of dollars each year to ensure Nebraska always enjoys abundant water.
Heineman agrees water is very important, both to agriculture and to the cities.
Still, he says the Water Sustainability Task Force must make a better argument to back its recommendation the state spend a billion dollars to ensure the Nebraska never runs dry.
“Well, that’s what I’ve heard from most citizens so far. Why are we doing it?” Heineman tells reporters. “So, I think they need to come in and make their case.”
The Water Sustainability Task Force met 20 times between July and December. The legislature created the task force when it approved a bill 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.
Heineman says it will be a tough sell and he reaches for an old western saying to sum up the legislative battle ahead.
“Whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting. We’ve learned that one.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin report [:40]