Ballot measure could help Nebraska airports land more airlines

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – It is uncommon for things to pass unanimously in the Nebraska Legislature, but Amendment 1 gained support from every senator last session and will now be on the ballot in November.

Many hope that the constitutional amendment, coined Grow Nebraska, will aid the growth of airports across the state and, in turn, the state’s economy.

“This is a very tiny change to our constitution, simply giving Nebraska the ability to compete for airlines like every other state,” said Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

SEE ALSO: Bipartisan group stumps for amendment aiming to help Nebraska airports

Currently, the nation is struggling with a significant pilot shortage.

“That is putting a great deal of strain on airlines to be very selective about where they are investing, about where they are committing to serve, and whether or not they are growing the community or they are leaving a community,” State Sen. Eliot Bostar said.

This amendment wouldn’t change the amount of funds airports have to spend; it would just give them local control to decide how to use the funds.

“The Nebraska Constitution actually prohibited us from using our own funding to attract airlines,” said Nick Cusick of the Lincoln Airport Authority.

Bostar said that means Nebraska can’t compete with other states.

“We do not have access to the same tools that states across the country currently are utilizing to grow the network and the access of flights and routes that commercial air services are providing them,” he said.

The hope is that more flight options will attract more business, and possibly even lower ticket prices.

Airport officials fear that if the amendment doesn’t pass, they might continue to lose flights.

“Here in Lincoln, we lost Delta to COVID, basically, and the pilot shortage, but at this point, to get Delta back, we would likely have to offer a minimum revenue guarantee,” Cusick said. “And there is limited places that we can get that, and this constitutional amendment, if it passes, would allow us to potentially fund a minimum revenue guarantee to get them back.”

Nebraska’s nine commercial airports currently support over 66,000 jobs and bring in $6.1 billion annually.

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan said the amendment “isn’t going to raise anybody’s taxes.”

“No new revenue involved here,” she said. “It’s just that we have a situation here where with our airports. We have tied one hand behind their back when it comes to the competition with airports all across the nation.”

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