The Legislature's Revenue Committee on Thursday authorized Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk to prepare a legislative proposal that would give authority to the governor to commit up to $1 billion to accelerate highway construction in the state.
That proposal emerged during an executive session discussion of Legislative Bill 542, introduced by Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont, which would authorize $400 million in highway bond financing to speed construction of the state's expressway system.
The driving force behind recent efforts to increase highway construction funding is a desire to complete Nebraska's four-lane expressway system, which is designed to connect the state's major communities.
Flood, who is a member of the Revenue Committee, offered to prepare an expanded proposal for the committee's consideration and was quickly asked to do so.
If such a plan was ultimately approved by the Legislature, it would be in the toolbox for the next governor if he or she chose to use it. Gov. Pete Ricketts has been opposed to utilization of highway bonds to supplement funding.
When she was a state senator in 2011, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer won enactment of legislation to speed up highway construction in the state by adding a new funding stream supplied by dedicating revenue from a quarter-cent of the state's sales tax.
Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning has led an effort by a number of communities, including Fremont and Columbus, to speed up completion of the 600-mile expressway system, which was first proposed in 1988.
Incomplete stretches remain along U.S. Highway 81 from Columbus to Interstate 80, on U.S. Highway 275 between Norfolk and Winslow, and U.S. Highway 30 linking Columbus and Fremont.
A void remains on U.S. Highway 77 north of Wahoo and along U.S. Highway 75 between Nebraska City and Omaha.
"It seems incredibly financially irresponsible to wait any longer on this 30-year plan," Walz said in presenting her bill earlier this month.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation opposed the bill at its public hearing.