Roads bill steamrolls through
April 20th, 2011
Lincoln, NE – A roads construction bill moved to within one vote of final passage in the Nebraska Legislature.
It was another day of being squashed under a legislative steamroller for opponents of the roads construction bill. In its latest form, LB84 would set aside one quarter cent of the state sales tax â€“ about $65 million a year â€“ for road construction. The money wouldnâ€™t start to be set aside until 2013. Governor Dave Heineman has said itâ€™s too early to be making financial commitments for that far in the future, especially considering economic uncertainty. And heâ€™s warned that reserving a part of the existing tax base for roads could mean shorting other programs, like education and health. Thatâ€™s found the Republican governor with some unlikely political bedfellows, like Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, a Democrat.
â€œVery rarely do the governor and myself wholeheartedly agree on any particular issue,â€ Mello said. â€œAnd itâ€™s unique that this legislative session it appears weâ€™ve agreed on more than we have the last two years, and this is another one of those examples, where fiscally we can wait to enact LB84 next year.â€
Heineman acknowledged the unlikeliness of his allies on this issue, and kept a straight face, mostly, in suggesting it might be the start of a trend.
â€œItâ€™s a unique situation, Iâ€™ll say that,â€ Heineman said. â€œAnd Iâ€™m glad to know that certain members of the Legislature are beginning to understand the wisdom that comes out of the governorâ€™s office and theyâ€™re now quoting me rather frequently on the floor. I hope they remember that on a couple of other bills that are coming up in the near future.â€
For her part, Fischer, also a Republican, wasnâ€™t buying any suggestions of delay in setting aside more money for roads, no matter where those suggestions came from.
â€œWe need to act now because we havenâ€™t acted in the past. Itâ€™s always next year,â€ Fischer said. â€œItâ€™s always â€œWhatâ€™s the rush?â€ We need to act now and Iâ€™d say if members want to act now and put that quarter cent in that new fund, Iâ€™d support that.â€
Legislators rejected a move to postpone further consideration of the bill until next year. They then voted 36-12 to give the bill second round approval. Eleven of the 12 â€œnoâ€ votes came from Democrats. The governor refused to say if he will veto the bill, but if he did, heâ€™d need to peel off seven votes from among those who supported it in the latest vote to avoid an override.
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