Stooping to the Nebraska GOPs Levelby Kyle Michaelis
As Harold W. Andersen writes in his column today:
In 2002, when Nebraska settled a lawsuit with Kansas, state officials agreed to stay within Nebraska's legal water allocation in the Republican River Valley, figured over a three- to five-year period. In 2003 and 2004, irrigators used about 64,000 acre-feet more than Nebraska was supposed to consume. Projections indicate that this year, Nebraska irrigators took 42,000 acre-feet more than allowed under the agreement with Kansas.
It has been estimated that $375 million would be needed to retire enough irrigated acres to solve the legal problem, with the amount to be payable over a 15-year span....
A variety of suggestions have been made to finance the solution of the problem (by retiring irrigated acres). They include increasing the state sales tax, establishing or increasing fees on wells and irrigated acres, an initiative petition to dedicate state tax dollars to water or asking the Legislature to approve a 3-cent property tax rate increase for natural resources districts....
A state Water Policy Task Force is considering possible solutions to the multimillion-dollar problem of cleaning up the mess - a mess that need not have been created if Nebraska governors and legislators had shown the foresight and political courage to put some reasonable, effective restraints on the drilling of irrigation wells and the amount of water pumped from such wells.
Such restraints predictably would not have been popular with some irrigators and potential irrigators, but such action would have discharged state government's responsibility to protect the state's precious groundwater supply in the short term and, even more importantly, for the long-term future.
Of course, Andersen chooses to be vague in assigning blame for this situation because it rests so squarely on those of his shared partisan stripes, but the facts speak for themselves. Republicans have controlled the levers of state government for almost 8 years, meaning this needless $375 million expense was incurred entirely on their watch for their want of leadership (are we recognizing a pattern here?).
They want to hold Nelson responsible for not turning his back on the people of Boyd County? Then we should damn well hold them responsible for not having the political courage to do what had to be done to see Nebraska live up to its Republican-contracted water obligations.
$145 million vs. $375 million. That's $83 per person vs. $215 that every man, woman, and child in this state is going to be paying one way or another for the Republicans' failure. The Republican River is carrying Nebraskans' hard-earned dollars straight to Kansas because of the Republican Party's incompetence.
I know the issue is more complex than that, but if the Republicans are so willing to point fingers they invite and deserve such recrimination. So I ask, when can I expect my check?