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Ballistic Missile Project

One of the bills that I co-signed this year is LB 712. LB 712 was introduced by Sen. Brian Hardin of Gering. This bill is important because it would help with the needs of the Panhandle once they add an additional 3,000 people to the workforce for a new ballistic missile upgrading project. Seldom does the Panhandle ever get to be the recipient of legislation that would significantly benefit the economy of the Panhandle and this bill would do just that.

LB 712 appropriates $26 million to the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Deployment Fund. The fund would be placed under the care of the Adjutant General and would be used for grants to support the City of Kimball and its outlying areas to address deficiencies in community infrastructure, transportation, healthcare facilities, law enforcement and emergency response, recreation, and workforce development in order to support the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Deployment and Minuteman III Decommissioning and Disposal Accommodation project if the State of Nebraska is selected as the site for the headquarters.

Earlier this month Gov. Jim Pillen wrote an article whereby he explained his reasoning for not including state funding for communities associated with the updating of this intercontinental ballistic missile project in his budget for this year. According to Gov. Pillen, all of the necessary funding for this project would come from the federal government, the project would be completely self-sufficient, and those contract workers who would be imported from the Gulf of Mexico to do the work would be confined to the secured area.

When we asked Northrop Grumman, the contractor who would be doing the missile upgrading work, if they would be using local utilities or infrastructure to support their work, we got a different response. While the secured workforce hub would have the ability to be completely self-sufficient, Northrup Grumman admitted to us that the contractor "may choose to use local utilities."

When asked if the workers would be confined to the secured area of the workforce hub, we also received a different response. According to Northrup Grumman, they have "current plans for weekend busses to bring some of the workforce into various towns in the region to shop, see a movie, grab a bite to eat, attend church, etc." We also learned that ten to twenty percent of the workforce needed to complete the work would come from local communities.

Unfortunately, Gov. Pillen received some very bad information. While nothing in LB 712 appropriates funds for the upgrading of ballistic missiles it does appropriate monies to the City of Kimball and its outlying areas to accommodate for the influx of workers moving into and visiting the area, and that is why this bill is so important.

Without the revenues provided by LB 712 the City of Kimball would have to go it alone. Last year the City of Kimball bonded $2.3 million to upgrade its power generation system and they also have a need to upgrade their wastewater plant which would cost the city another $ 5 million. Last week the city council voted to add a half cent sales tax onto the ballot for a special election to be held in June. The City of Kimball is doing all that it can to service the needs of these contract workers and to support the local communities in the outlying areas.

Despite the Governor's lack of support for the economies of Western Nebraska, especially as folks in the Panhandle gear up for this ballistic missile upgrading project, the Nebraska Legislature could be bringing some financial relief. The day after Gov. Pillen published his article against LB 712, the Government Military and Veterans Affairs Committee of the Nebraska Legislature advanced the bill to General File.

The Governor has stated that the State would take care of the City of Kimball if needed. The Governor can only spend a limited amount of money without approval from the Legislature. Therefore, those of us in the Legislature must appropriate the funding contained in LB 712, so that the State can help the Panhandle once this project gets approved.

I want to thank Sen. Hardin for his foresight and leadership on this very important bill.


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