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Election Day in Nebraska is less than a week away. For those of you who will be voting in person on Tuesday, you will be deciding on Referendum Number 426: whether or not to repeal LB 268, which abolished the death penalty in Nebraska. The wording on the ballot can be confusing, so I would like to clarify that voting to repeal will undo what the Legislature did, and return the death penalty to Nebraska. A vote to retain will keep the actions of the Legislature which eliminated the death penalty in Nebraska. Regardless of the results of this vote, I will abide by the decision of the voters of Nebraska. If you choose to retain the repeal, I will honor that choice. If you choose to bring back the death penalty, I will do what I can to streamline the process, making it effective and timely. In my opinion, the law was not broken, but the process was. I believe that the Legislature has the ability to fix the process.
On October 28th, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met and announced an anticipated $901 million shortfall. I wish to clarify that this shortfall is their forecast for the 2017-2019 fiscal biennium, and not the current fiscal year, although we do still face a smaller budget shortfall this year. The Legislature will address the budget shortfalls in January, and I see no need for a special session at this time. However, we will be dealing with a much smaller budget next year because of the projected drop in revenue.
I would like to stress that the forecasting board does just what their name implies: forecasting. These numbers can all change if commodity prices come back up, bringing up agricultural revenue and increasing the income taxes paid by farmers. However, if the decline in the agricultural sector spills over into the rest of the economy, a slowdown in the entire state would mean we could be looking at an even larger budget deficit. As with all things, only time will tell.