Roads Funding Advances

By Deb Fischer, SenatorDistrict 43LB 84, my roads funding bill, advanced to Final Reading onApril 20th with a strong vote of 36-12. The bill, as amended,designates a quarter cent of existing sales tax to this new StateHighway and Capital Improvement Fund. LB 84 is a solution to ourtransportation funding crisis that is reasonable and workable. It makesa good start in addressing some of the highway funding needs of ourstate. The bill also helps our local governments and provides aid toother regional projects. Cities and counties will receive 15% of thesales tax revenue and 25% will be designated for expressways. Theremaining amount will be used for high priority state roads projects. Ilook forward to the final round of debate on this bill and trulyappreciate all of the support I have received.The Legislature has passed several bills on Final Reading. LB 235, thestate aid to schools bill, will fund state aid to schools at $822million in FY 2011-12 and $880 million in FY 2012-13. As I have statedin previous columns, rural schools received less state aid again thisyear. I have continued to receive comments on how this funding formulais simply not sustainable. I appreciate these comments and I amplanning to work over the summer on a legislative study to examine howstate aid to schools can be improved.Also gaining final approval by the Legislature was a bill to increasethe maximum renewal period for an oversized permit for a vehicletransporting sugar beets, grain, or other seasonally harvested products.LB 35 specifically increases the maximum renewal period to 210 days. OnSelect 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 betowed to a place of safe keeping, which is typically the next exit on ahighway. The amendment now allows for the large vehicles to be towed toa safer and more secure location. I have received several emails and letters from constituents regardingLB 600. This is a bill that will generate additional federal fundingfor payment of Medicaid rates to Nebraska nursing facilities. The goalof this bill is to partially offset projected financial losses fromstate Medicaid provider rate reductions for the FY 11-13 biennium.Under current federal regulations a state may collect an assessment fromnursing facilities. These assessments then qualify for federal matchingfunds of 58.44 percent. For every $1 of assessment returned to nursingfacilities, the state receives approximately $1.50 from the federalgovernment for rate enhancements. In aggregate, nursing facilities arereimbursed $2.50 for every $1 invested in the program. I support thisbill and believe it will provide significant relief to nursingfacilities which are so important to our communities.Another bill that will provide an important benefit to our communitiesis LB 386 which creates a job training grant for interns. The bill isone component of the Governor's Talent and Innovation Initiative andaims to increase the number of college students interning with Nebraskabusinesses. This program will be funded with redirected job trainingfunds and will require a 100% match from participating companies. LB386 provides opportunities for students at both four year universitiesand two year community colleges. Internships need to pay at leastminimum wage and could range from 12 weeks to one year. The ultimategoal of the bill is to keep our talented young people in the state andprovide them valuable training for the future. I support this bill andencourage people to contact me about how they can become involved in theprogram.As always, thank you for sharing in our legislative process, and I'llvisit with you again next week.