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Roads Funding Advances

April 22, 2011

By Deb Fischer, Senator
District 43

LB 84, my roads funding bill, advanced to Final Reading on
April 20th with a strong vote of 36-12. The bill, as amended,
designates a quarter cent of existing sales tax to this new State
Highway and Capital Improvement Fund. LB 84 is a solution to our
transportation funding crisis that is reasonable and workable. It makes
a good start in addressing some of the highway funding needs of our
state. The bill also helps our local governments and provides aid to
other regional projects. Cities and counties will receive 15% of the
sales tax revenue and 25% will be designated for expressways. The
remaining amount will be used for high priority state roads projects. I
look forward to the final round of debate on this bill and truly
appreciate all of the support I have received.

The Legislature has passed several bills on Final Reading. LB 235, the
state aid to schools bill, will fund state aid to schools at $822
million in FY 2011-12 and $880 million in FY 2012-13. As I have stated
in previous columns, rural schools received less state aid again this
year. I have continued to receive comments on how this funding formula
is simply not sustainable. I appreciate these comments and I am
planning to work over the summer on a legislative study to examine how
state aid to schools can be improved.

Also gaining final approval by the Legislature was a bill to increase
the maximum renewal period for an oversized permit for a vehicle
transporting sugar beets, grain, or other seasonally harvested products.
LB 35 specifically increases the maximum renewal period to 210 days. On
Select File, an amendment was attached to LB 35 which allows large,
oversized and overweight vehicles to be towed to a place of repair.
Currently, law enforcement has been requiring these vehicles to only be
towed to a place of safe keeping, which is typically the next exit on a
highway. The amendment now allows for the large vehicles to be towed to
a safer and more secure location.

I have received several emails and letters from constituents regarding
LB 600. This is a bill that will generate additional federal funding
for payment of Medicaid rates to Nebraska nursing facilities. The goal
of this bill is to partially offset projected financial losses from
state Medicaid provider rate reductions for the FY 11-13 biennium.
Under current federal regulations a state may collect an assessment from
nursing facilities. These assessments then qualify for federal matching
funds of 58.44 percent. For every $1 of assessment returned to nursing
facilities, the state receives approximately $1.50 from the federal
government for rate enhancements. In aggregate, nursing facilities are
reimbursed $2.50 for every $1 invested in the program. I support this
bill and believe it will provide significant relief to nursing
facilities which are so important to our communities.

Another bill that will provide an important benefit to our communities
is LB 386 which creates a job training grant for interns. The bill is
one component of the Governor's Talent and Innovation Initiative and
aims to increase the number of college students interning with Nebraska
businesses. This program will be funded with redirected job training
funds and will require a 100% match from participating companies. LB
386 provides opportunities for students at both four year universities
and two year community colleges. Internships need to pay at least
minimum wage and could range from 12 weeks to one year. The ultimate
goal of the bill is to keep our talented young people in the state and
provide them valuable training for the future. I support this bill and
encourage people to contact me about how they can become involved in the
program.

As always, thank you for sharing in our legislative process, and I'll
visit with you again next week.

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