Nebraska Bridges, Falling Down

“Lisa Jones” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

LisaJones01This week, Jim Smith, a Republican senator, proposed LB610, a six-cent a gallon increase to the gas tax over the next four years. Monies from this tax will repair transportation infrastructure across the state. Per the OWH, a person who drives an average of 15,000 miles a year will pay $45.00 in extra tax by year four.

Reaction was mixed from the other senators, with the “more conservative” Republican wing saying that Smith should have a very strong argument to get support for a tax increase. For his part, Governor Ricketts called for the new roads director to find “creative solutions” to the infrastructure issue (I can’t be the only one who thought “duct tape!”) and said he would not support any tax increase, giving tired bloggers and reporters everywhere the chance to create intrigue around two Republicans disagreeing.

That said–it seems rational and responsible to invest in the state’s infrastructure. Not that I’m in favor of tax increases generally, but Republicans should be able to articulate and thoughtfully dialogue about the benefits of some spending, or if we say no, come to the table with alternatives. Republicans fall short with alternatives. We think the “no” should suffice and endear us to the voter–which leaves us with politicians who can say in their next campaign ad that they never supported a tax increase–and decrepit bridges. We need more than a “no” here. We need a solution.

Kudos to Senator Smith for thinking outside political expediency on this one. It will be interesting to see how the other Republicans respond.

19 comments

  1. TexasAnnie says:

    I agree Lisa for this reason:
    Taxes should be waged justly.
    Taxing road & bridge users for such use is just.
    Therefore, the gasoline tax is a just tax for this purpose.

  2. Reallity Check says:

    Senator Smith’s bill is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go near far enough. We desperately need funds to repair and maintain the present infrastructure. There is also a huge need to expand and improve roads.

    Traditionally the fuel taxes have paid for road expenses in Nebraska. Deb Fischer got LB 84 passed to divert sales taxes for road funding. Senator Louden and others felt it was a mistake at the time. They felt it was more appropriate to raise the motor fuel tax to pay for roads, as it had always been done that way. The no higher taxes NEVER, EVER, EVER FOR ANY REASON crowd blocked that path. Robbing the sales tax funds hasn’t produced the needed revenue, and Senator Smith’s bill isn’t going to be enough.

    It’s time to revamp the entire motor fuels tax rate schedule and increase them enough to pay the bills. There is nothing unfair about making users pay for the costs of the government services they are consuming. Funding roads with fuel taxes does just that.

    It’s probably time to tax diesel fuel at a higher rate than gasoline. The majority of diesel fuel is being used by trucks that are creating a lot more wear and tear on the roads for every gallon of fuel they use than the cars using gasoline are. Gasohol doesn’t have to be taxed at the same rate as gasoline.

    It’s time to repeal LB 84 and use those funds for property tax relief or other desperately needed state programs. It’s time to raise fuel taxes high enough to pay the bills. Senator Smith’s bill is a start, but it doesn’t go near far enough. It’s time to assess what the real needs are to adequately fund all aspects of the road system in Nebraska and tax fuels accordingly. The longer we wait to do the right thing, the higher the eventual rates are going to have to be. If we don’t pay the bills now, we’re going to be paying them in the future at a much higher cost.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You have got to be kidding me? How is this any different than any other liberal justifying a tax increase to pay for another really important project? Housing for the poor is surely more important than our roads…let’s raise taxes! Food and clothes is surely more important…let’s raise taxes! Education? Contraception? What happened to the Republican Party?! The Governor is right.

    Are you as a Republican really asking for alternatives to tax increases? Umm…like cuts to wasteful spending? My guess is these are some of the same Republican Senators that signed Nebraska’s tax payers up for the $2.5 million dollar tab for fountains outside of the capitol building. Good god…please save this party.

  4. Pete says:

    I was just having this argument with a good friend of mine.
    Here’s where I’m at:
    NE has 25.6 cents in taxes on a gallon of gas. That’s high. 26th in the country to be exact. And we’re not all driving very efficient vehicles. Drive around the state and you’ll notice probably about half of vehicles net less than 19 mpg combined mileage. Some quick NE Dept. of Revenue browsing will show just how much gas and gasohol this state sells every year. We don’t have a problem with lack of fuel tax revenue. We’ve just let the nimrods in Lincoln misallocate money and ignore our roads for too long. I say cut the hell out of some budgets and reallocate the money. We are taxed enough already and these thousands of cuts are starting to wear on me.

    You know who has fuel tax revenue problems? Oregon. People there drive the hell out of hybrids and just don’t use much gas. Their problem is bad enough that they are now on their second round of real world testing out a mileage tax rather than a fuel tax. It worked well in the original pool of about 500 drivers. That program actually ends up costing your granola gutted Prius driver way more so than your Billy-Bob Chevy truck driver.

    One more thing- Does it strike anyone else as all too coincidental that as soon as gas prices hit a temporary lull, some numbskull in Lincoln decides the government deserves more money from the sale and consumption of gasoline?

  5. Pete says:

    Just for the record, before some democrat harps on me about “infrastructure”… I like roads. I love good roads and I detest crappy roads (like the roads in Omaha). I also drive about 24,000 miles/ year (mostly) in Nebraska. I am not against paying for roads, old or new.
    I knew a guy in college who made $18/hour holding a sign that said “slow” all summer long. Maybe we can make some cuts across all departments and fix our roads and bridges without increasing the tax, no?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Model state budget please. If we’re going to fix roads, etc, what will we NOT do. Time for those hard choices we hear about, the choices that are never made by anyone ever.

  7. ANON says:

    Keep fooling yourself that you will see much change, the same thing will come up in a few years after the tax is implemented, it’s out there and the spineless legislators will impose it, your guilty of paying too little for fuel, for now at least

  8. Infrastructuralfrustration says:

    You don’t sell your blood to pay a doctor to treat your anemia.

    The proper question is, how can we get non-Nebraskans to pay for improvements to Nebraska’s infrastructure?

    Forcing taxpayers to bleed cash works but isn’t at all optimum. Free Enterprise has trade deals carve ways for dollars to flow in. Or out. Every dollar that can possibly be taxed in Nebraska ultimately is filtered through some interstate or international deal. The more Nebraska makes deals that minimize our costs and maximize our shares, across our state economy, the more we have a river of cash flowing in and infrastructure becomes a thing to fix not budget for. If we don’t grasp that, we will squeeze our own stones until we go white and faint.

    We elected smart people. They must figure out how to get outsiders to pay for our infrastructure. It is their job to be smarter and craftier than the people running other states and other countries.

    Here’s an idea. Maybe Nebraska can get Canada to build a pipeline here and they can pay for our infrastructure!

  9. Wait! Where's Beau McCoy? says:

    If ONLY we still had Beau McCoy in the Legislature to SAVE us from Senator Spend’s new gas taxes! What? He’s where?

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think infrastructuralfrustration made a big leap when he or she said we elected smart people.

    To me, we were all just drunk and GDH was the cocktail of the moment. Instead of waking up and taking two aspirin, we had a little hair of the dog. This has been happening every couple of years since well before I could vote.

  11. Infrastructuralfrustration says:

    It was a relative comparison. An idiot is smarter than a moron, or vice versa. That’s all voters really need to achieve. A guy who drools is way smarter than one who play with his own poo.

    I assume Nebraska voters try very hard to elect people who are Less Stupid than those elected in other states and countries. However, you may be right. After all, we today have members of a NE nonpartisan unicameral who are trying to explain to that same monstrous political deformity, that it should find Nebraska’s a split EV odd.

    Odd? Everything about NE politics is odd.

    Nebraska voters may be dumber than every other voter on earth. All we need to do is elect a drooling moron over the out of state idiots and you suggest we cannot even do that. Mebbe so.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Correction. This blog isn’t on Daylight Savings Time. Still, how is that possible?

    DST is a useless change that costs money and increases accidents, costs more human lives, and farmers don’t want it. Its a stupid waste and an anachronism. Must have been invented in Nebraska.

  13. Fuel Tax is a User Fee says:

    The more use the roads, the more fuel you buy, the more you pay for the roads through the fuel tax. Since cars are increasing getting better MPG, people are paying less for fuel while still using the roads the same amount. So of course the fuel tax will have to go up some.

    If it does not go up, property taxes and other taxes will go up to cover the costs for the roads, regardless of how little or how much the property taxpayer uses the roads.

  14. Interested Observer says:

    Four years ago, during the Legislature’s debate on road funding, I posted the following on the Lincoln Journal Star:

    I really don’t think that this minor issue of fuel efficiency in passenger cars is the whole answer to roads funding, nor is it the whole problem of roads funding.

    Many different studies of road wear prove that “The relationship between axle weight and inflicted pavement damage is not linear but exponential.”

    “An 80 kN (18,000 lbs) single axle does over 3,000 times more damage to a pavement than an 8.9 kN (2,000 lbs) single axle.”

    “In other words, a 40 ton truck can easily cause as much damage to a typical road as 60,000 1 ton cars.”

    In reviewing NDOR online Statewide Traffic Flow Maps from 1980 and 2008, the total number of heavy commercial vehicles crossing Nebraska on Interstate 80 has increased from approximately 3,000 per day near York to approximately 8,000 per day near York.

    So, when we see just how many heavy commercial vehicles, trucks, are using Nebraska roads and we see how much more damage these heavy trucks inflict on the road surface than light passenger cars do, the whole notion of passenger car fuel efficiency is not nearly as relevant as is the specific issue of truck traffic. But I never saw any of our Senators mention any of this during their debate of the roads funding bill. Now, why is that?

    It’s too bad that the Legislature didn’t even consider simply raising the motor fuels tax on the trucks, most of which burn diesel, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially when the trucks are the vehicles that are causing disproportionately more damage to the roads in the first place.

  15. To Interested Observer says:

    What you state is misleading. Many roads in Nebraska are merely torn apart by the freeze and thaw of the seasons. There are also many roads and bridges with weight limits preventing trucks over 6 tons from having access (12,000 pounds). The larger trucks you refer to are mostly on the interstate which receives Federal funds. Furthermore, trucks have a much lower mpg and burn more fuel. Refrigerated trucks burn even more fuel since the fuel is used to keep the truck cold. So again, the user is paying for the roads when it comes to the fuel tax.

  16. NotChuck says:

    Reality Check @3 says, “It’s probably time to tax diesel fuel at a higher rate than gasoline. The majority of diesel fuel is being used by trucks that are creating a lot more wear and tear on the roads for every gallon of fuel they use than the cars using gasoline are.”

    For those of us who bought diesel-powered POV’s at a time when it was the cheapest fuel available and was the most efficient fuel in terms of mpg, we don’t cotton to hearing about a tax increase on what is now the most expensive fuel. Furthermore, as noted by others, most of the diesel big rigs operate on the federally subsidized Interstate system, not the smaller roads that are deteriorating due more to weather than use.

    But if you really want to reduce the costs of repairs, and therefore reduce the necessity of raising fuel taxes, take a look at the moronic approach to road construction in this state. Why are we the only state that still uses concrete road surfaces, unlike Iowa, Missouri, Kansas? Their roads seem far smoother than ours. You can really feel it in the ride when you cross the state line. Our new road surfaces need to be milled almost from the start, and the expansion joints always seem to be either inadequate to accommodate the temp / moisture changes. Hold on tight when driving on 370 between the Kennedy freeway and Ft Crook Rd!

    Why did the Hwy 75 stretch really need to zig-zag from left to right to left to right during construction between Platteview Road and Plattsmouth, instead of building one lane straight through while continuing to use the original two-way highway and bridges? It would have kept traffic flowing at the same pre-construction rates while keeping the workers away from dangerous traffic, and eliminated the cost of installing those crossovers and then tearing them out. Finding out whoever designed that plan and hanging him/her might be a good start to reforming highway projects! Maybe some heads should roll at NEDOT before we start talking about fuel tax increases.

  17. NotChuck says:

    Interested Observer @17 wrote, “It’s too bad that the Legislature didn’t even consider simply raising the motor fuels tax on the trucks, most of which burn diesel, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially when the trucks are the vehicles that are causing disproportionately more damage to the roads in the first place.”

    When you raise their diesel fuel tax, who pays it? They do, directly, and then they pass on the cost to the end user, and prices for our food, fuel, and goods goes up. So who’s paying the increased fuel tax? Look in the mirror!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.