DALLAS – Nebraska's proposed $450 million infrastructure bank would be financed with 2 cents of the state's gasoline tax and a $50 million transfer from the rainy day fund under a bill passed Monday by the legislature's appropriations committee.
Gov. Pete Ricketts had asked lawmakers earlier this year for an infrastructure bank that would be funded with $150 million of gas tax revenues through 2023 and $150 million from three $50 million annual transfers of rainy day funds. The committee reduced the rainy day fund component but added 10 years of gas tax revenue to the mix.
Nebraska's one-house legislature is expected to vote on the Transportation Innovation Act (Legislative Bill 960) next week.
The infrastructure bank proposal was part of an $8.9 billion package of bills adopted by a vote of 8 to 1 by committee members to adjust the two-year state budget that ends June 30, 2017.
The compromise measure will provide more funding for badly needed transportation projects, Ricketts said Tuesday.
"Thanks to the collaboration of the appropriations committee and my office, we have successfully agreed upon improvements to the Transportation Innovation Act which will direct additional funding towards accelerated roads construction," he said.
The infrastructure bank will also provide matching funds for county bridge repair efforts, he said.
Strengthening the state's road system will benefit agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism, which are the state's largest industries, Ricketts said.
"By accelerating the work on that infrastructure, we can spur economic growth and make sure we have that infrastructure for those key industries to be able to expand," he said.
The dedication of 2 cents from the state's gasoline tax to the infrastructure bank would extend through fiscal 2033. The bank would expire then as well, unless it is renewed by the legislature.
If approved by lawmakers next week, the bank measure would go into effect July 1, the beginning of the state's fiscal year.
Lawmakers overrode a veto by Ricketts last year to raise the state's gasoline tax by 1.5 cents per gallon a year for four years. The new rate of 31.6 cents per gallon is expected to generate an additional $75 million a year when fully implemented in 2019, with $25 million going to the state and $50 million to counties.
The bank, which would be administered by the Nebraska Department of Roads, would support three programs, including completion of a 45-mile, four-lane highway between Omaha and Norfolk. It would provide a total of $20 million for local road projects needed to attract new business or accommodate the expansion of existing ones and $40 million through 2023 for county bridge upgrades.
The measure also would allow the state to use a design-build process on expensive and complex projects, with a single contractor responsible for design and construction. A design-bid-build process is currently mandated for state road projects.
Design-build contracts could save up to four years on large projects like the expressway completion, said Kyle Schneweis, director of the Department of Roads.
"All the money in the world will not help us deliver projects tomorrow," he said last month at a legislative hearing on the proposal. "Projects take time to develop, and in the past, in Nebraska, they've taken too long to develop."
Meanwhile in another Midwestern state, Gregg Smith was elected chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission on Monday to succeed Stephen Miller, who will serve as the commission's vice chairman.
Smith praised Miller as an advocate for more transportation funding.
"He's kept Missouri Department of Transportation's long-term insufficient funding problems at the forefront and worked diligently to build nonpartisan support for additional transportation investment," Smith said.