Unicameral advances CSO, sales tax measures

Omaha, NE – State legislators have advanced a bill in the Unicameral that would let cities raise their sales tax rate if voters approve it.

If it becomes law, communities such as Omaha could ask voters to approve raising the sales tax to two percent. The state sales tax is 5.5 percent. Omaha's sales tax is 1.5 percent. Governor Dave Heineman opposes the measure, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Lavon Heidemann doesn't believe it would be overridden if Heineman vetoes the bill. Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle testified before a Unicameral committee in favor of it, saying it would be another tool communities have available for generating revenue.

Another bill would allow cities to use sales tax revenue collected by the state on increased sewer use fees for infrastructure upgrades.
If it passes, cities doing combined sewer overflow or CSO projects could apply to use sales tax revenue collected from increased sewer use fees to pay for upgrades. They wouldn't be able to do so until July 2013, and the money can only be used for those projects.

Senator Heath Mello of Omaha is sponsoring the bill in the Nebraska Legislature. Omaha's combined sewer overflow project has a price tag of more than $1.6 billion dollars.