Welcome

January 8th, 2014

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 2nd legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Bill Kintner

Appropriations passes mainline budget adjustments

March 5th, 2014

Lincoln, NE - Today the Appropriations Committee passed the mainline budget adjustments by a vote of 8-1.  I voted against it.

My colleagues and I put in hard work reviewing everything that was put before us this year in the Appropriations Committee.  There are a lot of items I agree with in this budget.  However, in the end, I could not agree with the total new spending growth that is included in the Committee’s package which would push two-year spending to a 5.5% growth rate.  That is in addition to the approximately $ 91 million that would be left for action on the floor.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2014

Senator addresses 2013 school aid battle

June 18th, 2013

Kintner addresses the 2013 school funding battle

As I write, the full Legislature is just beginning debate on LB 407, the bill that will determine two of the most significant and complex issues of the 2013 session. The first decision made in this bill is how much in total state dollars will be needed to fund Nebraska’s public schools for the next upcoming two years. The second decision made in LB 407 is how that amount of money will be distributed among our 248 public school districts statewide.

Reaching a final determination on how much of your General Fund tax dollars to spend on state aid to the public schools requires the close coordination of two separate legislative committees. The Education Committee considers how to set funding priorities and policies for schools in its state aid to schools funding formula and the Appropriations Committee must then reconcile funding required for public schools with all of the other spending requests of state government agencies.

LB 407 was advanced from the Education Committee on a divided 5-3 vote of committee members. Those representing mostly urban school districts voted against the majority of committee members and have filed numerous proposed amendments that will be debated on the floor of the Legislature by all 49 state senators. Debate on this bill is expected to be quite lengthy, at least on the first round of its consideration.

There definitely exists an urban versus rural component to this complicated bill. That situation is likely when districts in our state are as diverse as the exceptionally large Omaha Public School District and very small Arthur Public School District which is located in a sparse area in western Nebraska.

The diversity of districts exists even within Legislative District 2. So, to the extent that school districts have essentially divided themselves into “sides” on the school funding debate, senators must set funding policies that reflect and embrace the vast differences in size of school districts.

The Appropriations Committee issued a “preliminary report” to the Legislature at the end of February. That report outlined helpful information regarding the level of state aid to schools funding – along with other major expenditure information. As a placeholder, the Appropriations Committee included a plan to spend approximately $125 million more in school state aid funding in the next two years.

Funding at that level, if approved, will amount to a 5 percent two-year overall increase. The percentage and dollar increases are very large because the public schools, through the state aid formula, are collectively receiving $837 million presently. These percentage increases would increase state aid appropriations to $879 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year and to $920 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

There are a lot of high tax dollar numbers involved in this issue. As you can imagine, spending nearly one billion dollars each year on funding to the public schools catches the attention of all senators – and taxpayers alike.

Education has always been an important spending priority. The Nebraska Constitution mandates that this area be a priority. Nebraskans, too, have clearly expressed interest in having competitive and vibrant public schools. The need to avoid pressuring property taxes also plays an important role in determining how much state funding should be allocated to school districts.

Countering those important points are the pressure that ever-increasing amounts of state aid to school districts places on the overall spending contained within the entire state budget.

At the Appropriations Committee’s preliminary budget numbers, the total state expenditures made to public school districts for state school aid amounts to 70 percent of all General Fund aid to local governments in the entire budget. When state expenditures for special education are added to that number, this amounts to 86 percent of all General Fund aid to local governments.

Numbers. Policy. Priorities. These items will abound in the LB 407 debate and consideration. The complexity of the school aid formula, in detail, is astounding.

One good tool that I have been reviewing to ready myself for this detailed debate is available on the Nebraska Department of Education’s public website. It is a tool that will provide “State Aid History By District.” Here is the website address for those who want to explore a twenty-year state aid funding history of each of the state’s school districts:www.education.ne.gov/FOS/ASPX/Search.aspx?id=9

I have reviewed profiles for each of the District 2 schools. The information is instructive to see the very large swings in state aid to schools experienced by our schools.

There are many controversies ahead. As always, I appreciate hearing from you on these important matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff for information on any pending legislative matters, or if I may be of assistance. Please reach me at 1115 State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 (402-471-2613), or at my email: bkintner@leg.ne.gov.

Senator shares thoughts on two-year state budget

June 18th, 2013

The Legislature has now completed 75 percent of the 90 legislative-day long year session. With 25 percent of the scheduled legislative time in session remaining, the bulk of consideration of legislative bills will occur between now and our final adjournment for the year.

Of the 655 bills introduced this year, about 60 bills have been killed or withdrawn by the Legislature; 84 bills have been signed into law by the Governor. That adds up to about 21 percent of the total bills that were introduced this year. As I mentioned in a prior article, only those bills that have been designated as “priority bills” will likely be placed on our agenda for debate. About 91 of those bills are left for the Legislature to resolve in our remaining days.

In addition to those priority bills, we will also begin consideration of the entire state budget. Nebraska’s Constitution requires the Legislature to enact a two-year, or biennial, budget during legislative sessions held in odd-numbered years.

In January, the Governor submitted his recommended budget to the Legislature. The Governor’s proposal recommended a 5.1 percent spending increase in the first fiscal year and a 4.7 percent increase in the second fiscal year, for a total two year increase in spending of about 5.0 percent.

The detailed budget proposal is comprised in 7 separate bills, LB 194 through LB 200. Those bills were all referred to the Appropriations Committee.

Following receipt of the budget bills, the committee conducted an overview of the recommendations and began a detailed review of each spending line item in each of the state agency programs. The Committee then issued its “preliminary report” at the end of February. That report basically sets the Appropriations Committee’s recommendations to the full Legislature and was the basis of all of the public hearings that the Committee conducted during the month of March and in early April.

Throughout the last month, I have been meeting with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee in formal work sessions to begin to make final decisions on spending items within the budget package. The Committee’s final recommendation to the full Legislature has now been completed. The bills must be reported from the committee and placed on General File no later than Legislative Day 70 (May 1, 2013).

Starting next week, the full Legislature will begin detailed consideration of each of the 7 budget bills. The Appropriations Committee will have committee amendments that make changes from the Governor’s original proposal. Then, any member of the Legislature may offer amendments to add, reduce, or eliminate proposed spending items to the committee’s recommended spending levels.

I anticipate a robust debate on the budget bill package. Nebraskans deserve a robust debate as the combined General Fund spending that will be authorized in this two-year budget comes close to $8 billion.

Ultimately, there will need to be a super-majority of 33 out of 49 senators who agree with a final budget package in order for the bills to be passed and to go into effect on July 1, 2013 – which will be the starting date of the next upcoming state fiscal year.

After passage by the Legislature, the Governor then has five days to review the entire budget bill package and to make line-item vetoes to any of the spending items. If the Governor makes any vetoes, then the Legislature will consider whether to attempt to override any of those spending items.

All of this legislative and executive branch activity will take place in the next several weeks.

I certainly feel the responsibility of being a good steward of your tax dollars. There are nearly 8 billion reasons to be attentive to Legislative Bills 194 through 200. I welcome your thoughts as the final budget bills are introduced and summarized in the Appropriations Committee’s Final Biennial Budget Report.

There are many controversies ahead. As always, I appreciate hearing from you on these important matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff for information on any pending legislative matters, or if I may be of assistance. Please reach me at 1115 State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 (402-471-2613), or at my email: bkintner@leg.ne.gov.

June 11th, 2013

June 18th, 2013

Although the Legislature has formally adjourned for 2013, important legislative business continues throughout the summer and fall – referred to as the “interim” between sessions. I plan to highlight some of the larger issues that will be examined in-depth by various task forces and committee working groups as these issues almost always set the stage for important bills that will dominate the work of next year’s session.

One critical and highly public effort will be that of the “Water Funding Task Force,” a 34- member group that was authorized by the June 4, 2013 enactment of LB 517. The membership, which is expected to be fully appointed within the next thirty days, will consist of the 16 existing members of the Natural Resources Commission; the Natural Resources Department Director; the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee of the Legislature plus five other state senators; and 11 members who are appointed by the Governor to represent specific categories of water users.

The Legislature set forth that Nebraska’s water resources are finite and must be wisely managed to ensure their continued availability and beneficial use. The new task force is required to research and gather data regarding water use and aging water infrastructure. Most importantly, the task force is expected to 1) identify the state’s water needs; 2) organize the list of necessary projects; and 3) establish a process to identify needs in a priority order.

The work of the task force sounds basic; however, it will be difficult to prioritize which projects are more “needed” over other projects and which uses (for example, agricultural versus drinking water supplies) are higher priorities. The work will also be difficult because the final report issued by this task force will likely seek additional state General Funds to finance more projects.

The senator who authored this bill had also introduced LB 516, in which he proposed that ¼ of one cent of the state sales tax receipts be redirected to water priority projects. The fiscal note on that bill estimated that $65 to $75 million annually would be redirected from the state budget to water projects. Obviously, the bill was very controversial and it did not advance from the Natural Resources Committee.

Two other bills that remain pending for consideration next year, LB 185 and LB 522, also proposed major shifts in existing state funds to finance a variety of water projects. Finally, the lawsuit between the State of Kansas and the State of Nebraska over our Republican River water management compact remains pending.

It is not clear what, if any financial exposure Nebraska taxpayers will have in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s final ruling in that case. Water as a resource is becoming increasingly scarce and subject to increasingly competing interests. Nebraska is situated on top of the Ogallala Aquifer. That has blessed our state and region with an abundance of water. The abundance will be gone if not correctly managed.

The water funding issue is, in many ways, a slow-motion crisis – one that is decades in the making, an imminent need for some yet years or decades away for others. I look forward to the productive work of this task force. Several other important water studies have been completed throughout the past several years.

It remains to be seen if this group will produce a quantifiable key priority water project list that can garner a political consensus amongst the many diverse water interests.

As always, I appreciate hearing from you on important matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff for information on any pending legislative matters, or if I may be of assistance. Please reach me at 1115 State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 (402-471-2613), or at my email:bkintner@leg.ne.gov.

Slow legislative session has positive aspects

April 25th, 2013

Two-thirds of the legislative days of the 2013 Unicameral session have now been completed. Some have commented on the fact that this seems to be the slowest moving session in recent memory.

Whatever the reasons, I embrace the pace of this session. I don’t see any downside in limiting the amount of laws passed or in conducting lengthy public discussion about whether or not we really need to add another program, fee, or tax or tax break to Nebraska statutes.

I come from a limited government and low tax perspective on government. While some government programs and a certain amount of taxes are necessary for a functioning state government, Nebraska exceeds the necessary levels of both programs and taxes.

Extended debate on the merits or any bill is a good thing because it forces legislators to make fully deliberative arguments about the proposal contained in the bill.

It is no secret Nebraska’s state legislative branch is unique. Our “one-house” system only requires a bill to pass through one legislative body before going to the Governor’s desk for his action.

Without the added checks and balances that a second house would normally provide, the filibuster procedure is a method being frequently used this session to slow down a bill and consider it thoroughly.

In order to end a filibuster, 33 votes – instead of the 25 vote simple majority standard – is required. I have heard some argue routine filibusters are a breakdown of the legislative process and create chaos.

In my view, the process is working just as it was intended. The rules of the Legislature were written for a reason. They were also adopted unanimously by all 49 state senators at the beginning of this session.

Approximately one-third of the legislative days that remain in the 2013 session will pass quickly. The vast bulk of the work on bills designated as priority bills by individual senators, our committees and the Speaker of the Legislature have yet to be considered by the full Legislature.

The Speaker of the Legislature has advised each of us that he has designated most of the upcoming legislative days to include “late nights,” during which many of the bills are considered.

Unlike the United States Congress, however, our “late nights” will have to end by midnight. After that time, we start a new legislative day.

In the U.S. Congress, voting on bills goes on into the wee hours of the mornings. I am appreciative of the midnight deadline under our law.

Many of the substantial and controversial priority bills will be considered during the remaining days of the session.

These include debate on LB 577, the proposed implementation of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion; LB 407, the proposed new state aid to schools formula; LB 543, the proposed repeal of Nebraska’s death penalty; LB 561, the proposed reorganization of state programs for juvenile offenders; LB 522, a proposal to provide state financial compensation to irrigation districts in water short years; and a variety of bills which propose tax breaks for a wide variety of interests.

Amidst all of those bills, we also must reach agreement on the state’s next two-year budget. The Appropriations Committee continues to meet in order to reach final decisions on funding priorities and funding levels for all state programs. Our Committee is expected to issue a final budget at the end of April. The full Legislature will begin debate on the package of budget bills in early May.

As I consider the volume and importance of the work ahead, I am reminded of Calvin Coolidge who wisely said “It is better to kill bad bills than it is to pass good ones.”

Perhaps, the only exception to that statement would be to pass a bill that repeals a prior law. It appears, however, those kind of bills are a rare occurrence. As Milton Friedman determined, “There is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program.”

There are many controversies ahead. As always, I appreciate hearing from you on these important matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff for information on any pending legislative matters, or if I may be of assistance. Please reach me at 1115 State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 (402-471-2613), or at my email: bkintner@leg.ne.gov.

Senator addresses 2013 school aid battle

April 25th, 2013

Kintner addresses the 2013 school funding battle

As I write, the full Legislature is just beginning debate on LB 407, the bill that will determine two of the most significant and complex issues of the 2013 session. The first decision made in this bill is how much in total state dollars will be needed to fund Nebraska’s public schools for the next upcoming two years. The second decision made in LB 407 is how that amount of money will be distributed among our 248 public school districts statewide.

Reaching a final determination on how much of your General Fund tax dollars to spend on state aid to the public schools requires the close coordination of two separate legislative committees. The Education Committee considers how to set funding priorities and policies for schools in its state aid to schools funding formula and the Appropriations Committee must then reconcile funding required for public schools with all of the other spending requests of state government agencies.

LB 407 was advanced from the Education Committee on a divided 5-3 vote of committee members. Those representing mostly urban school districts voted against the majority of committee members and have filed numerous proposed amendments that will be debated on the floor of the Legislature by all 49 state senators. Debate on this bill is expected to be quite lengthy, at least on the first round of its consideration.

There definitely exists an urban versus rural component to this complicated bill. That situation is likely when districts in our state are as diverse as the exceptionally large Omaha Public School District and very small Arthur Public School District which is located in a sparse area in western Nebraska.

The diversity of districts exists even within Legislative District 2. So, to the extent that school districts have essentially divided themselves into “sides” on the school funding debate, senators must set funding policies that reflect and embrace the vast differences in size of school districts.

The Appropriations Committee issued a “preliminary report” to the Legislature at the end of February. That report outlined helpful information regarding the level of state aid to schools funding – along with other major expenditure information. As a placeholder, the Appropriations Committee included a plan to spend approximately $125 million more in school state aid funding in the next two years.

Funding at that level, if approved, will amount to a 5 percent two-year overall increase. The percentage and dollar increases are very large because the public schools, through the state aid formula, are collectively receiving $837 million presently. These percentage increases would increase state aid appropriations to $879 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year and to $920 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

There are a lot of high tax dollar numbers involved in this issue. As you can imagine, spending nearly one billion dollars each year on funding to the public schools catches the attention of all senators – and taxpayers alike.

Education has always been an important spending priority. The Nebraska Constitution mandates that this area be a priority. Nebraskans, too, have clearly expressed interest in having competitive and vibrant public schools. The need to avoid pressuring property taxes also plays an important role in determining how much state funding should be allocated to school districts.

Countering those important points are the pressure that ever-increasing amounts of state aid to school districts places on the overall spending contained within the entire state budget.

At the Appropriations Committee’s preliminary budget numbers, the total state expenditures made to public school districts for state school aid amounts to 70 percent of all General Fund aid to local governments in the entire budget. When state expenditures for special education are added to that number, this amounts to 86 percent of all General Fund aid to local governments.

Numbers. Policy. Priorities. These items will abound in the LB 407 debate and consideration. The complexity of the school aid formula, in detail, is astounding.

One good tool that I have been reviewing to ready myself for this detailed debate is available on the Nebraska Department of Education’s public website. It is a tool that will provide “State Aid History By District.” Here is the website address for those who want to explore a twenty-year state aid funding history of each of the state’s school districts: www.education.ne.gov/FOS/ASPX/Search.aspx?id=9

I have reviewed profiles for each of the District 2 schools. The information is instructive to see the very large swings in state aid to schools experienced by our schools. There are many controversies ahead. As always, I appreciate hearing from you on these important matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff for information on any pending legislative matters, or if I may be of assistance. Please reach me at 1115 State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 (402-471-2613), or at my email: bkintner@leg.ne.gov.