LINCOLN -- Gov. Dave Heineman put up a stop sign Wednesday morning to an ambitious highway construction bill making its way through the Nebraska Legislature, saying the state cannot afford its $140 million-a-year price tag right now.
The governor said that Legislative Bill 84 represented a “risky financial strategy” in earmarking that large of a withdrawal of state general funds beginning in 2013, when bill sponsors believe the state's economy, and tax revenue, will have sufficiently recovered from the recession.
Heineman, an advocate of education improvements, said that “any reasonable” economic forecast doesn't show a robust enough recovery by then. Because of that, spending on education and human services would have to be reduced to redirect those funds for roads.
“What's the rush,” he said. “When the economy is growing ... that's when we need to make this decision.”
Last week, the Legislature gave 32-8 first-round approval to LB 84 or the Build Nebraska Act after overcoming a filibuster by opponents who argued, like Heineman, that the state's budget couldn't handle such an expensive measure.
Several amendments have been filed on the bill and a couple of key senators have said the bill's cost needs to be reduced.
Valentine Sen. Deb Fischer sponsored the bill.
Heineman was critical of the Legislature adopting a bill this year that doesn't go into effect until 2013, when a handful of senators, including Fischer, will be gone due to term limits. Spending decisions, he said, need to be done during the current, two-year budget cycle, and not into the future.
“I know of only one legislative body who does that -- the U.S. Congress,” the governor said during a morning press conference. “We don't act like that and we shouldn't act like that.”