The bill would allow the state to issue bonds to help complete important road projects.

LINCOLN, Nebraska (Nebraska) — Nebrascans have been promised a lot when it comes to highways.

But even decades later, many of these promises remain unfulfilled.

“Personally, Suzanne and I moved back from Kansas State in 1983, and guess what, a four-lane expansion began in East Columbus that same year. And we still don’t have four lanes to Fremont,” Gov. Jim Pillen said during a hearing on the bill on Wednesday.

Funding has been a major hurdle to completing these projects, and the new bill is looking at a new method of funding—government bonds—to get things done.

Bill LB 706 uses the Nebraska Highway Capital Improvement Fund, which is funded by a 0.25% sales tax introduced by the Nebraska Building Act of 2011, to fund bonds.

The bill allows the state to issue up to $450 million in bonds from the fund to accelerate projects identified by the Nebraska Building Act, with the lion’s share of funding going to expressways and highway corridors designated as high priority projects.

A similar bill was introduced in 2021 but did not move forward. This bill did not have a specific source of funding, but now that the source has been identified, some groups are choosing not to oppose the bill this time around.

“When we issue bonds or the government is about to issue bonds for future payments, we believe it is critical to identify a specific source of funding for how you will make those payments to avoid any situations where you use future annual budgets to make payments. for the work already done and then overlook the content and maintenance of your existing program,” said Tim Hruza of Associated General Contractors in Nebraska, who opposed LB 542 in 2021 but testified in a neutral capacity for LB 706.

At Wednesday’s hearing, no one testified against the bill, and the committee received only one letter against it.

Proponents said it was time to put the change into action, as changing manufacturing trends will make Nebraska’s road quality critical to staying competitive.

“With production coming back from overseas and supply chains coming back from overseas, between agricultural production and transportation, that represents about 30% of our GDP,” said Brian Sloan, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce.


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