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Last week we heard debate on some of the budget bills, including LB1011 – the budget adjustment bill, LB1012 – the funds transfer bill, and LB1013 – the cash reserve transfer bill, all of them introduced by Speaker Mike Hilgers, at the request of Governor Ricketts. Short sessions are generally considered an easier budgeting year because the heavy lifting of setting the two-year budget has been completed in the prior long session, but that was not the case this year with hours of debate from filed amendments that elicited discussion on changes to the budget and the corrections and inmate overcrowding crisis, led by retiring Judiciary Committee Chair Steve Lathrop.
For their 2022 budget adjustments, the Appropriations committee was dealing with a net $775 million increase in available funds for this biennium. The Appropriations Committee proposed budget adjustment then utilizes $349.3 million of this net amount, leaving $453.6 million above the 3% minimum reserve. This amount, the $453.6 million, is what is available for legislative bills or revenue reduction, i.e., what is available for the Legislature to put toward enactment of legislation with a revenue impact.
Approximately $1.035 billion will be credited to the Cash Reserve Fund as the result of the increased revenue collections and forecasts bringing the unobligated balance in that fund to $1.842 billion. The Appropriations Committee proposed budget utilizes $513 million, leaving an unobligated balance of $1.329 billion.
Since the Legislature adjourned in 2021 more than $2 billion in additional revenues have been received or projected over the three years that impact the current biennium budget and that does not include the additional $1.04 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to allocate this year as well, which will be debated this week as LB1014. My request for $10 million for small and medium meat processors was included in the Governor’s ARPA proposal and now LB1014.
We still have at least one week of debate on all of the above mentioned fiscal bills and we will be debating tax reduction bills this week. Tax reduction would be the right course to take with all the extra funds available this year. The extra money needs to be returned to the people and an appropriate cushion needs to be maintained in the state’s rainy day fund for when times are lean.