Lincoln voters will decide on a quarter-cent sales tax increase for street repair

A big crowd for the Lincoln City Council meeting on Monday. Among the many items on the agenda, increasing the local sales tax by a quarter-cent was the hot topic.

“You have to look at the big picture, Lincoln does not have a revenue problem, ” one opponent said. “We have a spending and prioritizing problem.”

City officials say the tax would raise around $13 million a year or $78 million over the 6 year period. The sales tax increase would go strictly to streets.

Mayor Chris Beutler said the meaning for this project is in the same league as Pinnacle Bank Arena, South Beltway and the prior sales tax toward public safety.

“To the common person on a day to day basis, this one may be the biggest of all because this one will affect each and every one of them in many ways and many areas of the city as they go about their daily lives,” Mayor Beutler said.

Many people opposing this tax increase say they spend too much already on wheel tax.

“Wheel tax was created to fund our roads, to take care of our roads,” one opponent said. “I have to ask you, where has all that money gone?”

“There are many other cities in Nebraska that don’t have any wheel tax and they somehow manage to get their streets fixed without an additional sales tax,” one opponent said. “What are they doing right that were not doing?”

Officials explained why the wheel tax isn’t significant enough to meet Lincoln street needs.

Lincoln has a budget of $60 million a year on streets and the Transportation Coalition said it was about $30 million short of where they needed to be.

“The wheel tax in it’s current form at $74 a vehicle generates $18 million a year, it generates less than a third of what we have to spend at the level we are now.”

The Lincoln City Council voted 6-1 on putting this idea on the April primary ballot and letting the people decide.

If the tax is approved, the average Lincoln family would pay an additional $31 a year.

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