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Last week we began debate on the budget bills. Our only constitutional responsibility as a legislature is to pass a biennial budget. It’s been awhile but we actually have more money than was projected which makes it easier and also a bit harder to create a budget. When we are low on money it is easier to just say no to anything that requires extra money. When we have extra money it can be difficult to decide what should take priority. Just because we have more this year, doesn’t mean that during the next budget cycle we will be in the same situation and then we would have to cut a program that was just created. Although, any money that can go towards property tax relief in a sensible manner is something that has been a priority of mine and I will continue to support it.
Some of the highlights from the Appropriations Committee proposed FY 2021-22/FY2022-23 biennial budget are: Property tax relief, the committee included an increase in the Property Tax Credit of $63 million over the next two years; money for legislation pending this year of $211 million; also, money to help replenish the cash reserve fund (the legislature’s savings account), which would increase from $412 million to $763 million. The proposed budget can be found on the Nebraska Legislature’s website: www.nebraskalegislature.gov
Last Thursday we passed a $9.7 billion budget, but it still has to pass two more rounds of debate so there could be further changes made. On Friday, we debated LB 383, a bill introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers that was at the request of the governor. The bill is to appropriate funds for capital construction. There was an amendment offered by Senator John Stinner of Gering that created a lot of debate, the amendment, AM 911, appropriates money to address prison overcrowding. Senator Stinner’s amendment allocates almost $15 million for selecting a site and creates the design for a new 1,500 bed prison. It also requires a study of the current Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln to determine how much longer it should be utilized. There is also $18 million added so Lincoln can add three units for geriatric, mentally ill and other special-needs prisoners.
After our legislative budget is determined, we will begin discussing spending and taxation. According to Speaker Mike Hilgers, that will be the focus for the two weeks following the finalization of the budget.
Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is email@example.com and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.