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The Legislature gave final approval to a two-year budget that holds the line on spending as well as gives money back to the taxpayers. Nebraska’s Constitution requires the state to have a balanced budget, which the Legislature establishes on a two-year cycle. The biennium budget passed this year covers fiscal years that begin in July 2015.
Our Appropriation Committee’s initial budget recommendation largely mirrored the one proposed by Governor Ricketts. It focused on funding necessary government functions, including education, Medicaid and correctional services, promoting economic development and limiting increases in expenditures. The average growth of the two-year $8.6 billion budget package was only 3.1%, which is one of the lowest growth rates in the last 15 budget cycles.
Early in the budget debate, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board delivered an unexpected surprise, projecting better than anticipated revenues in the coming years. The Legislature demonstrated fiscal restraint and agreed to send the money back to taxpayers. An extra $8 million was added to the already approved $60 million annual increase to the Property Tax Credit Fund. Each year, a total of $204 million in the fund will be dispersed to property tax payers to offset the taxes paid to fund local government bodies such as school districts and counties.
I applaud Governor Ricketts and the Appropriations Committee for bringing forth a responsible budget – one that did not promote wasteful government spending and instead gave money back to whom it belongs; the taxpayer.