Mayor Chris Beutler today urged the State Legislature to defeat LB 229, a proposal to divert $7 million a year over the next ten years from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) fund. The Legislature's Natural Resources Committee advanced the bill Wednesday. Beutler said passage of the bill would be another blow to local property taxpayers and seriously damage the City's environmental efforts.
"The loss of water quality projects are a great concern," Beutler said. "Water quality is heavily regulated by both the State and federal governments. In some cases, Lincoln will have no choice but to do these mandated water quality projects, but may no longer be able to count on the Environmental Trust fund for assistance. This will once again force Lincoln to choose between increased property taxes or a reduction in critical services."
NET funds have helped the City to protect rare eastern saline wetlands and the endangered species that live there; to restore the water quality of Holmes Lake; to preserve native prairie at the Pioneers Park Nature Center; and to improve stormwater quality by reducing the pollutants in streams and lakes.
"The bill is another example of the State pushing its budget issues onto the City," Beutler said. "We have already sustained a $1.8 million hit from the loss of State aid, and it appears other revenue sources will be severely limited. The net effect is to shift the burden of taxation to property owners because that is the only revenue source over which we have control at this point."
The State lottery bill Nebraska voters approved in 1992 stipulates that nearly half of the lottery proceeds would fund innovative environmental projects.