Gov. Pete Ricketts has rejected a proposal to increase the state gas tax, setting up a veto showdown with the Unicameral.
Ricketts has vetoed Legislative Bill 610, which would have increased the state gas tax by six cents over the next four years.
“I don’t believe that Nebraskans are looking to have their taxes increased,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network. “In fact, as I’ve traveled across the state, Nebraskans have told me what they want is tax relief.”
Ricketts wasted no time in issuing his veto. He returned the bill to the legislature only hours after it passed LB 610 on a 26-to-15 vote with eight senators abstaining.
Ricketts says he saw no need to wait, he had signaled his intentions to veto the bill.
The governor says the legislature hasn’t considered alternatives to raising money for needed road and bridge repair. Ricketts points out money has just begun coming into the state from the quarter-cent sales tax designated for highway construction projects from the Build Nebraska Act passed in 2011.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, the sponsor of LB 610, says the state must generate more revenue to clear up a backlog of road and bridge repairs, totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
LB 610 proposes gradually increasing the gas tax over a four-year period by six cents. The state gas tax currently is 25.6 cents. It is estimated the increase, once fully implemented, would raise an additional $75 million annually.
Though Smith only received 26 votes for his bill on final reading, he’s confident he will get the 30 needed to override the veto.
“I believe we will have the number of votes necessary to override the governor’s veto,” Smith told reporters immediately after the governor returned his bill.
Smith, chairman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, said he planned to file an override motion on Tuesday, when the legislature returns to the Capitol.
Iowa and South Dakota recently took advantage of lower gas prices to increase their gas taxes.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]