AASHTO Journal, 22 May 2015
State senators in Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature mustered the 30 votes they needed to override Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto and increase motor fuel fees for road improvements.
Starting Jan. 1, 2016, that measure increases the state’s fuel user charge by 1.5 cents a year for four years, to raise an expected $76 million annually when it is fully implemented.
One third of the increase, or half a cent per gallon each year, will go to the Nebraska Department of Roads for use on state highways, while cities and counties split the rest.
Ricketts on May 7 had vetoed the measure hours after the Legislature first approved it. The governor said he wanted his next director of the NDOR, Kyle Schneweis, to first be able to assess agency operations for efficiencies and assess project needs. Schneweis is scheduled to start in that position on June 8.
Ricketts also criticized a fuel fee increase as a regressive tax that falls hardest on low-income drivers.
But Sen. Ron Smith, the bill’s sponsor, said while he looked forward to working with the new NDOR director “and hear his innovative ideas … it’s unrealistic to expect such gains to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to catch up” with the backlog of projects.
“It’s also important to remember that the new director will have no jurisdiction over city and county projects,” Smith said. “The funding needs are massive and our communities are desperate for our help now.”
The Legislature voted 30-16 on May 14 to override Ricketts’ veto and pass the revenue measure. In response, Ricketts said: “This tax increase will not only hurt Nebraska’s hardworking families, but it will only make it more difficult to grow Nebraska because of our state’s burdensome tax climate.”