Gov. Pete Ricketts reiterates his stance against an increase in the state gas tax.
“I can tell you, having traveled the state for the last year and a half, I’m not sure there’s anybody who has traveled the state more than I have, the top priority for Nebraskans is tax relief and this is the opposite of tax relief,” Ricketts tells reporters during a news conference.
Ricketts says Nebraska ranks too high among states in the taxes it assesses.
“Folks, this is how we got to be a high-tax state,” Ricketts says.
The Unicameral approved LB 610 on a 26-to-15 vote. Eight senators didn’t vote. The bill would increase the state gas tax by six cents over a four-year period.
Ricketts wasted no time in issuing a veto. It came to the legislative chamber only hours after passage. Ricketts says he expects the legislature to try to override the veto.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, the sponsor of LB 610, has filed his motion for a veto override. He will need to get more votes than he did on passage. He needs a minimum of 30 to override the veto.
Smith 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. The state gas tax currently is 25.6 cents. It is estimated the increase, once fully implemented, would raise an additional $75 million annually.
Ricketts says state government needs to consider alternative ways to raise money and even ease regulations to address road and bridge repair.
“Those are some of the things that we need to take a look at,” Ricketts says. “We need to exhaust those ideas before we go running to a gas tax, which again this is just, to me, big government throwing money at a problem without any oversight as to how that money is going to be spent.”