In a press conference Tuesday morning, Mayor Chris Beutler emphasized the city’s growing need for residential road maintenance. “The longer we delay repairs to these streets the more expensive they get. We can’t afford to wait. Neighborhood streets like the one we are on today need immediate attention,” Beutler said.
Beutler said funding for streets hasn’t been fully fulfilled since before the Great Recession – when the city slashed funding for residential road maintenance.
“Construction costs have continued to outpace inflation while federal funding for streets remains stagnant. The scarce funding we did have had to go to arterials. We simply did not have the funds to fix neighborhood streets,” Beutler said.
The push for putting the issue on the April 9 ballot, Beutler said, is due to him leaving office. Beutler says the next mayor will encounter the problem of Lincoln’s deteriorating roads, and says this sales tax provides a proactive solution for the incoming city official.
Mayor Beutler addressed critics’ proposals of why the city’s pricey wheel tax isn’t footing the bill for repairing streets.
“Many in the community are saying that we don’t need additional funding. They are saying that if we just spent our wheel tax dollars better, we wouldn’t need more money. That simply isn’t true. The city spends about $65 million a year on streets. The wheel tax provides only $18 million of that amount,” Beutler said.
Beutler followed up saying it also can’t be an option because of legal reasons. By law, the mayor said the wheel tax can be spent only on transportation. By law, that money cannot be diverted to other city needs.
Other critics have said it’s a matter of priorities. Beutler addressed those claims saying, “What they don’t tell you what it would take to reach the $13 million raised annually by the quarter cent sales tax. Eliminating $13 million from the budget would close more than one third of our fire stations. Eliminating 13 million would close all Lincoln libraries, and we’d still be 3 million short. Shifting 13 million in funds from City programs would either seriously compromise our community’s safety or obliterate our quality of life.
City Councilman Roy Christensen closed the press conference with saying this need is a nonpartisan issue, the solution is proactive and the time is now to take care of the city’s roads.