By Carolyn Kramer, manager, Transportation Investment Advocacy Center

Nebraska lawmakers are attempting to gather support for a veto override after Governor Pete Ricketts (R) rejected their bill to increase the state gas tax.

The Nebraska Unicameral Legislature on May 7 voted 26-15 to gradually increase the state’s gas tax by 6 cents-per-gallon over four years in order to fund the maintenance and modernization of the state’s roads and bridges. Once fully implemented, the increase would generate $25.4 million annually for the state Department of Roads, and an additional $50.8 million for cities and counties, according to legislative estimates.

Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill within hours after it was passed by the legislature, saying he could not support a tax increase “as the first solution” to fund infrastructure. He suggested that public-private partnerships, streamlined operations and lower administrative overhead could help toward meeting the state’s road construction needs.

To override the governor’s veto, the legislature needs a minimum of 30 votes, or four more than approved the bill. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Smith (R), has expressed confidence in gathering enough support to override the veto. Some of that support could come from eight legislators who did not vote on the bill.