We received welcome news last week on the state of Nebraska’s economy.
In order to meet our state constitutional requirement to maintain a balanced budget, members of the Legislature and the Governor and their respective staff meet regularly to match revenues with expenses. While some states politicize the budget meetings and projections, our previous Legislatures passed laws to make the process strictly business. We have a nine-member Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board, with membership from across the state and diverse in their areas of expertise, that makes future revenue predictions. The Legislature utilizes their numbers to make sure that we do not spend more money than we will have in the bank by the time expenses become due. We pass a biennial budget each odd-numbered year and make sure the numbers continue to add up in the even-numbered year. We can make adjustments if the actual receipts and expenses call for it.
In last week’s meeting, the forecasting board projected growth in revenues over previous expectations for the current two-year budget at nearly $100 million. This means our economy is performing better than expected and we have more revenue coming into the state coffers than expected.
This creates even more opportunities than we already had to significantly reduce Nebraskans’ tax burden this year. Even before last week’s improved projections, we were on track to maintain a record cash reserve. With the new numbers, we must return these unexpected revenues back to the taxpayers. We have plenty of room to pass property, income, and sales tax relief before we adjourn this legislative session in mid-April. I am excited about the possibilities and will continue to urge my colleagues on the Revenue Committee to think big as we consider and advance tax relief bills for consideration by the full Legislature.
It was my privilege to welcome the members of this year’s Leadership Fremont class to the Unicameral last month. These community professionals have agreed to participate in the Fremont Chamber of Commerce’s nine-month program to explore emerging community issues, immerse themselves in community service organizations, and acquire leadership skills training to help themselves and their employers promote the greater Fremont area. One of the class’s meetings is held at the statehouse each year. The attendees were able to watch the Legislature in action to see how it works and what issues are particularly pressing in 2014. Senator Ken Schilz of Ogallala provided a comprehensive review of where public policy discussions are heading regarding water use and law. I focused on tax relief legislation working its way through the Revenue Committee process. As a member of the committee, I’ve had the opportunity to focus my colleagues’ attention on property and income tax relief. The group also met with Governor Heineman to hear his thoughts on where Nebraska can improve and modernize tax policy. It was exciting to meet with these future community leaders as they acquire a better understanding of state government and the ways in which it can help promote business as well as opportunities to get out of the way as times change and old laws and regulations are repealed.
Congratulations to all the winter sports teams and participants as their seasons approach their conclusions. Our legislative district has already earned an impressive and growing list of state titles. North Bend Central and Fremont – Logan View brought home state bowling titles. The Fremont girls basketball team will be in Lincoln this week as they pursue a state title at Pinnacle Bank Arena. We have also had many successful swimmers and wrestlers from our district. Keep up the great work as you pursue your academic and athletic endeavors this school year.
Please continue to share your thoughts with me on issues before the Legislature. I can be reached at 402.471.2625, email@example.com, and District 15, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.