More money for roads, less for schools?

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January 10th, 2011

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Sen. Beau McCoy wants to halt some elements of the federal healthcare law (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Lincoln, NE – At a time when many lawmakers say the state needs to tighten its belt, at least one senator’s talking about spending more money, for roads.

Valentine Senator Deb Fischer wants to dedicate an additional $125 million a year for the next 20 years to road construction. The money would come from sales taxes, which she’s not proposing to increase. That could mean, if her bill passes, there would be $125 million less for everything else state government spends money on, from schools to health care.

Fischer said she cares about those things, too. So she’s proposing roads wouldn’t start getting the additional money until two years from now, when she hopes the economy, and state tax revenues, will have improved. But she said roads should definitely be a priority.

“I’m conservative, I’m real conservative,” she said. “I believe in limited government, and roads are a responsibility of government.”

Fisher’s plan would allow up to $25 million a year for the first five years to be used to back up to $500 million in new highway bonds. The rest of the money would be divided between counties, cities and the state, for work including the expressway system that’s years behind schedule. Fischer said even $125 million a year isn’t enough to meet an estimated $13 billion in road construction needs over the next twenty years. But she said people need to choose.

“And say either, okay, we’re willing to step up. We’re willing to identify a source of revenue and dedicate it for roads so we can get it done,” she said, “Or we need to be honest and say no, we’re not going to do it. We’re going to keep patching along, because right now we only have enough revenue to patch, to do maintenance. So let’s make the choice and let’s be honest to the people.”

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