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Building a 21st-century infrastructure is an important part of Growing Nebraska. Good roads are important for public safety because they provide safe transportation corridors for our families commuting to work, dropping their kids off at school, and making a trip to the grocery store. They are important for economic development for moving products to market especially in our top two industries, agriculture and manufacturing. Good roads are also critical to connecting our communities and our citizens all across Nebraska.
As we continue to look for new ways to build the 21st-century infrastructure that Nebraskans want and deserve, we must find fiscally responsible financing options. Nebraskans have a long-standing tradition of budgeting for their expenses – at home, in their businesses, and in government. Because of this fiscal discipline and our state’s low debt-to-GDP ratio, Nebraska has maintained a highly-coveted AAA credit rating. The advantage of maintaining this credit rating is demonstrated by the fiscal recklessness of governments in California and Puerto Rico, which is leaving them bankrupt and their citizens crushed by mountains of unsustainable debt.
As a part of this effort to invest in infrastructure and to use fiscally-responsible financing, Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) Director Kyle Schneweis and I announced that the State of Nebraska would provide nearly $3 million in additional roads funding to cities and counties across our state through the Federal Funds Purchase Program. This is a state-run program which allows cities and counties to swap federal roads dollars for state roads dollars to bypass federal red tape and to tailor projects to better meet their local needs. Federal regulations can be costly and prohibitive for local government which does not have the staff or resources to navigate the labyrinth of the federal bureaucracy.
Previously, NDOR exchanged each dollar of federal funds with 80 cents of state highway funds. Recently, NDOR and the Federal Highway Administration have worked to develop project delivery efficiencies that have reduced preliminary engineering and construction costs. These savings will now be passed on to cities and counties through a new purchase rate of 90 percent instead of the current 80 percent. This change was lauded by the Nebraska Association of County Officials and the League of Nebraska Municipalities because it will put downward pressure on local budgets and property taxes.
On another note, I would like to take a moment to recognize one of our military heroes who recently passed away. During his career, Major General Claude Bolton, Jr. became one of the highest ranking Active Duty Air Force ROTC graduates from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has been honored as a member of the UNL Air Force ROTC Hall of Fame and served as an Assistant Secretary of the Army under President George W. Bush. He was a great representative of Nebraska and great hero for our country.
Finally, be sure to watch www.governor.nebraska.gov for more information on town halls in your area in the coming days and weeks. I continue to travel the state to share updates on my Grow Nebraska initiatives and to hear from you. As always, you are welcome to contact my office with your thoughts and ideas on how to Grow Nebraska by calling 402-471-2244 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.