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OTHER VOICES: Infrastructure bill a victory for Nebraska, bipartisanship

OTHER VOICES: Infrastructure bill a victory for Nebraska, bipartisanship

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More than $2.5 billion for roads, bridges, public transportation and broadband will soon be flowing to Nebraska, thanks to the passage of a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill approved by the Senate Tuesday.

The measure, crafted by a bipartisan group of senators and passed on a 69-30 vote, still must be approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, and the differences between the two measures reconciled in a conference committee.

So it may be a few weeks until President Joe Biden can sign that measure that he helped get through the normally gridlocked Senate and a few months before the money will begin to be distributed.

Nebraska, according to a White House fact sheet, will receive $2 billion for federal-aid highway programs; $225 million for bridge replacements and repairs, $192 million for public transportation and $30 million to expand an electric vehicle-charging network.

Nebraska should also receive more than $100 million to improve broadband coverage, a critical element in the bill for a state in which 87% of households have broadband of any type.

The Senate bill wisely contains a measure from Sen. Deb Fischer that will create an online mapping tool for viewing the progress of the federal broadband deployment projects, which should be a valuable tool to ensure the broadband projects are cited in areas of greatest need.

Fischer, a strong supporter of infrastructure -- especially roads -- while a member of the Nebraska Legislature, pushed for increased flexibility for livestock haulers and assistance for communities in rural areas to meet their transportation needs.

Nebraska’s senior senator was among 19 Republicans voted for the bill, helping to make it one of the few examples of Congress legislating as it was intended. That process requires negotiation and compromise, not the extreme partisan intransigence that has become standard congressional operating procedure in the last 15 years.

Sen. Ben Sasse, however, voted against the bill and Nebraska’s interests, playing the old Republican fiscal conservative card, which was discredited during the free-spending, tax giveaway Trump administration, and citing his opposition to another Democratic infrastructure proposal that will have to be passed using budget reconciliation -- a battle that has yet to come and should have had no bearing on the merits of the compromise bill.

For while it may be imperfect, as Fischer pointed out, the infrastructure bill, when completed and implemented, will be of great benefit to Nebraska, allowing the cash-strapped state to address the aging infrastructure from past, seen and felt by driving across deteriorating highways and bridges.

Along with broadband expansion, this will equitably create critical infrastructure for future Nebraskans no matter where they are in the sprawling state.


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