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The latest report from the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board continues to show tax receipts coming in a bit above projections. The board met last week and projected tax receipts were adjusted up by $115 million. In the first seven months of the current fiscal year, which began last July, the state has already collected about $233 million in new revenue growth. The original forecast was for an increase of $160 million in revenue growth for FY 2019-2020. They have now increased that to $275 million for the fiscal year.
The forecasting board did not yet factor in the effects of COVID-19, the Corona virus which is having a global impact. In talking with the legislative fiscal analyst, I learned that the board did not feel they had a good enough grasp yet on the potential of the virus to interrupt supply chains and economic factors here in the state. So far there has not been a case in Nebraska apart from those individuals brought to UNMC in Omaha for treatment; and many regions of the USA are also unaffected at this time. The board members did say they expect to take another look at possible consequences of the virus at their next meeting in late October.
The legislature is now back to full day debate. One day this week we moved through eight different bills and another day, just two. Productivity cannot always be measured by the number of bills that are discussed, but we do have major issues still waiting in the wings. One of those, of course, is LB 974, dealing with property tax relief and school funding. I give a lot of credit to Sen. Linehan for the work she is doing to find proposals that will be acceptable to everyone concerned. But at this time, school officials I have talked with want to know how the state will meet funding obligations if the revenue does not continue to grow. Without amendments to address those concerns, I am not convinced the bill could pass. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to talk about it on the floor again next week.
LB 931 is a bill that clarifies some of the questions about transporting grain during the harvest season, or if it is taken from farm storage to final market later. This legislation would allow farmers to exceed truck weight limits by 15 percent to transport grain from field to farm storage, stockpile or market; and then from storage or stockpile to market later in the year – with a permit. County officials do have concerns about damage to the roads since trucks are bigger now and traffic counts for everyone in general are greater. I do want to emphasize that even if this bill passes, a permit needs to be obtained and must be carried in the truck, or a ticket can still be issued. I did vote to advance the bill even though I fully understand the concern of those charged with county road maintenance.
LB 803 is a bill that advanced this week and would create a check-off for pulse crops. In our part of the state we are familiar with corn, soybean and livestock check-offs; pulse crops are mainly grown in southwest and western Nebraska and include dry peas, lentils, chickpeas or garbanzo beans, faba beans and lentils. Having some funds to promote these crops could be very beneficial to farmers in our state, and the bill advanced on a 37-0 vote.
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Governor Pete Ricketts and health officials announced Friday afternoon that the first COVID-19 positive patient has been confirmed in Nebraska.
A 36-year-old woman will be transferred from Methodist Hospital in Omaha to University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Biocontainment Unit in Omaha.
The source of the infection was not confirmed but, she had recently traveled with her father to the United Kingdom.