Bill would repeal roads funding passed last year

A bill that would eliminate the distribution of sales tax revenue for future road construction projects was discussed in a Revenue Committee hearing Feb. 16.

LB1098, introduced by Omaha Sen. Brenda Council, would repeal the Build Nebraska Act passed by the Legislature in 2010. That law would dedicate one-quarter of 1 percent of the state sales tax for roads projects, 85 percent of which is directed to the State Highway Capital Improvement Fund, with the remaining 15 percent directed to the Highway Allocation Fund. Collection of the revenue would begin in 2013 and continue for 20 years.

Proposed projects under the act include an expansion of Highway 30 and a south beltway around Lincoln.

Council said the uncertain future of the state budget and the need to prioritize funding are reasons for repealing the roads funding.

“It is enough of a challenge to meet our funding priorities without the potential loss of revenue [under the Build Nebraska Act],” Council said. “We should not put off until next year that which will inevitably need to be addressed next year.”

Jerry Hoffman, representing the Nebraska State Education Association, testified in support of the bill, saying it is important that funding education remain the state’s top priority. Directing sales tax to roads projects will come at the expense of education funding, he said.

“This bill will ensure the state’s resources will be dedicated to the support of strong schools for every Nebraska child,” Hoffman said.

Marlene Johnson, League of Nebraska Municipalities vice president, testified in opposition to the bill. She said smaller communities are depending on the funding dedicated to future roads projects.

“We finally have a mechanism now to move roads projects forward,” Johnson said. “Those of us in small communities need the four-lane highways so we too can participate in economic development.”

Coby Mach, representing the Lincoln Independent Business Association, also opposed the bill, saying construction of the Lincoln beltway is a matter of public safety.

“In the past 11 years, 17 people have lost their lives as a result of crashes on the portion of Highway 2 running from west to east through Lincoln,” Mach said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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