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Budget is Debated
The Appropriation Committee’s budget was debated and advanced last week. I’m proud of our moderate, strategic budget. As a post-recession budget, we have included moderate investments in line with the administration’s proposals.
It has been a very informative and rewarding experience for me to be a member of the Appropriations Committee. Several issues were very important to me while debating the state’s budget. One such item in the budget honors a two-year freeze on tuition for students who attend the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, Omaha, and Kearney) and the three State Colleges (Chadron, Peru, and Wayne). Also, more money was designated for people on a waiting list for developmental disabilities services. Of course, we also invested in the basics, ranging from ensuring that the state patrol members have gas in their cars to making sure that libraries have adequate funding to continue on-line services.
We also kept a healthy amount of money (nearly $625 million) in the cash reserve for the future. This is perhaps the most important part of the budget to me, it will help us meet our state obligations while preventing need for discussion of tax increases in the future.
After four days of debate, the Appropriation Committee’s plan for a two-year, $7.8 billion dollar budget was advanced. Ten amendments were introduced and discussed at length on the main budget bill, LB 195. Two of these amendments, offered by Senator Heath Mello, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, were adopted. The two amendments were late additions to the budget that were adopted after the bills were being printed. They include an upgrade to the state’s emergency radio system and an adjustment to the state aid formula bill as agreed to when that bill, LB 407, was advanced to the second round of debate. Four amendments were withdrawn after debate, and four others were voted down. Several amendments involved property tax relief, which is an issue that constituents in every legislative district have requested. The majority of senators decided to wait for the major tax study that is scheduled for the interim before changing the current tax policy.
There are two more rounds of debate, then the seven budget bills, as amended, go to the Governor Heineman for his review. The Governor can sign the bills, or make individual line-item adjustments in these bills. We are required to pass a budget must by day Eightieth of session this year, which is May 20th. We are well on our way to meeting this requirement.