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Tuesday, April 28 marks the 70th legislative day of the 104th Legislature, first session. On that day, the state budget for the upcoming biennium will be introduced to the Legislature. Covering state operations and spending for the period of the next two fiscal years, the budget proposed by the Appropriations Committee will amount to $8.7 billion. General Fund spending, which is obtained from sales and income tax revenue, will compose approximately $4.3 billion of the total budget. The remaining $4 billion is spending from Federal and Cash funds.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have been actively involved in the development of the budget that will be presented to the full legislature. I am very proud of the work that has been done by the committee to develop and propose a budget that meets the obligations of government while being responsible stewards of your tax dollars. The budget, as proposed, represents a two year average growth rate of 3.1%. This is the third lowest budget growth rate in the past 30 years. Included in that growth rate is an additional $120 million of Property Tax Credit over the biennium, increasing the property tax credit paid to taxpayers by over 40%.
Developing a state budget is no simple task. The Appropriations Committee represents the diverse interests of the state, with 3 members of each Congressional District represented on the committee. I have been impressed by the manner in which the 9 members of the committee have worked together to prioritize interests of the entire state and the deliberate manner in which every budget item is given consideration. Balancing the requests of all state agencies, the budget proposed by the office of the governor, and the concerns of constituents with finite revenues is a demanding process. Setting priorities for spending between state services and strategic economic investment encompasses meeting both the needs of the “now” as well as thinking forward toward the needs of future Nebraskans.
I am proud of the budget that will be brought to the floor for debate. It is responsible, strategic, and reflective of the values of Nebraska taxpayers. I am particularly proud of language in the proposed budget that will increase transparency of state spending by agencies within each fiscal year. We cannot manage what we do not measure, and having accurate financial status at the close of each fiscal year is a significant step forward in conserving your tax dollars. In addition to a significant increase in Property Tax Credit, the tax dollars appropriated demonstrate the state’s commitment to K-12 education. At a time when many states are cutting support for higher education, the proposed budget has important investments in Nebraska’s public universities, state colleges, and community colleges.
Debate on the budget bills will begin on Thursday, April 30. On that day the Nebraska Economic Forecast Advisory Board (NEFAB) will also meet to review the economic forecasts for the state in the coming fiscal years. The NEFAB develops the revenue projection based on the economic forecasts they review and analyze. The budget was developed using the latest forecast projections from the February meeting of the board. Any changes in the revenue forecast by the board could have significant effects on the budget. While Nebraska has a 33 year historical average revenue growth of 5%, any slowing of that growth would require revision of the budget.
I encourage you to engage in the unfolding budget discussion over the coming weeks. As always, I appreciate your input on the budget and any issue before the Legislature. To contact my office, please call 402-471-2732 or email at email@example.com. For daily updates, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38