Gas Tax Hike Showdown Headed to Nebraska

Strong leadership from the governor may be the most important factor in passing state gas tax increases. But what happens when the governor opposes increasing the gas tax and the legislature supports it? Nebraska is about to find out.
May 9, 2015, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Wasting no time after the Nebraska legislature passed a six cents per-gallon gas tax increase by a 26-15 vote on Thursday (May 7)Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed it the same day, reports AASHTO Journal.

His rejection came as no surprise, since he had publicly vowed such action. In his veto message, Ricketts criticized a fuel fee increase as a regressive tax that falls hardest on low-income drivers.

Nebraska's Legislature is unique among states in that in addition to being nonpartisan, it is the only unicameral (single-chamber) body in the United States, according to Wikipedia, so the override vote only need to come from one legislative body.

Thirty votes are needed to override Ricketts' veto. The Associated Press reports that Sen. Jim Smith  "believes" he has the necessary four votes.

Unlike in Iowa, where Gov. Terry Branstad provided instrumental leadership to pass the 10 cent gas tax increase that went into effect March 1, Sen. Smith appears to play the pivotal leadership role judging by his March 18 newsletter.

I am grateful Senator Curt Friesen of Henderson has prioritized LB 610, which is a bill I introduced that would provide much-needed funding to our transportation infrastructure.  The bill would increase the portion of our gas tax that goes to fund our state, city, and county roads and bridges.  While I consider myself a fiscal conservative, I have firsthand knowledge (as Chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee) of our immense infrastructure needs and the huge funding gap that exists.

This is not the first time we've reported on gubernatorial vetoes of gas tax legislation:

Of course, it should not take a transportation calamity to inspire governors and state legislatures to increase gas taxes to pay for essential road and bridge maintenance and repair.

Hat tip: AASHTO Journal newsletter.

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Published on Friday, May 8, 2015 in AASHTO Journal
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