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Governor Who Vetoed Gas Tax Increase Happy to Use New Revenue for Road Construction

Among the ten state legislatures, mostly Republican controlled, which passed gas tax increases last year, the one that stood out the most was Nebraska's because it had to override Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) veto of the six-cent gas tax hike bill.
April 21, 2016, 6am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Gov. Pete Ricketts at bill-signing ceremony for the Transportation Innovation Act on April 18.

Details of the unicameral legislature overriding Governor Pete Ricketts' veto of the gas tax tax last May were posted here, including the schedule for the six-cent tax increase from 2016 to 2019. The ten state legislatures that voted to increase gas taxes last year are listed at the bottom of this post. Noteworthy is that only two had Democratic governors.

"During a bill-signing ceremony at the State Capitol, the governor praised senators for passing one of his legislative priorities for 2016," writes Joe Duggan for the World-Herald. "Lawmakers voted 48-0 last week to give final approval to what’s been called the Transportation Innovation Act." The bill will fund $450 million in highway construction.

While Ricketts didn't thank the legislature for overriding his veto of the gas tax increase last year, perhaps he should have when considering where the highway funding comes from.

The law earmarks $50 million of the state’s cash reserve fund and about $400 million in future state gas tax revenue for expressway construction, county bridge repair and transportation-related economic development projects.

The governor initially wanted to transfer $150 million from the state’s rainy day fund to kick-start the infrastructure bank. The Legislature agreed to $50 million in cash reserve funds, but lawmakers also voted to increase overall funding by $150 million more than the governor proposed.

While the gas tax hike may have increased road funding, road-building would have continued regardless. Instead of being paid by gas taxes, it would have been subsidized from the rainy day fund, similar to what the federal government has done since 2008.

Ricketts maintained his opposition to the gas tax increase. "On Monday, he said he still doesn’t support tax increases, including the one that has now become the foundation of his roads initiative," writes Duggan.

“What we wanted to do as far as this bill is, since the gas tax did pass, we were going to dedicate those funds so they were working for the people of Nebraska,” Ricketts said.

As for saving $100 million for perhaps a real rainy day event, there's no ribbon-cutting for that.

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update (April 19)

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Published on Monday, April 18, 2016 in The Omaha World-Herald
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