State Department of Roads faces tighter belt

While tomorrow marks the start of the special session on the state’s budget shortfall, the legislature’s Transportation and Appropriations Committees will also hold a joint meeting in Lincoln. The meeting was scheduled prior to Governor Dave Heineman calling the special session.
Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine, the Transportation Committee chair, says they held hearings around the state to get input on future highway needs and costs. “Every idea was to pay more,” Fischer says, laughing. “I found that interesting. People were in favor of increasing taxes and increasing fees to pay for roads. It did surprise me but when you look at this, there really is no other alternative.”
Fischer says road maintenance depends on dedicated fees and taxes. “Nebraska historically has not taken money from the general fund for highway use and therefore, if we’re going to follow what we’ve done in the past, it would take raising taxes or raising fees,” Fischer says. “I’m not prepared to do that at this time.”
She says she expects the roads department to come up short in its anticipated budget. Fischer says there’s a budget of about $300-million for the Department of Roads in the current year and about $286-million of that goes for maintenance.
“We have no money for new construction,” Fischer says, though she says people across the state are asking for exactly that. She says senators will have to figure out how to pay for future highway needs in the context of falling revenues.
Thanks to Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton