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This week, the Legislature began discussions on the 2021-2022 $9.7 billion budget. As a new member of the Appropriations Committee, I am proud to have worked on this budget that properly funds our pressing needs, while allowing for over $211 million available for other legislation that is pending in the Legislature. I want to highlight some of the major items in the budget.
One of the major concerns the Legislature addressed in this budget is providing significant property tax relief. Last year, the Legislature enacted the Property Tax Incentive Program that provides refundable income tax credits for any taxpayer who pays school district taxes. This program will provide $313,672,849 dollars towards property tax relief each year over the next two years. The Legislature also increased appropriations to the original Property Tax Credit Fund. This year, the Legislature is appropriating $300 million dollars to the Property Tax Credit Fund and in 2022, $313 million dollars. When these two programs are combined, over $600 million a year is going towards direct property tax relief.
The Legislature has also provided a rate increase to our service providers. Over the next two years, we are providing a 4% increase which amounts to an increase of $83.5 million dollars. These funds are provided to providers serving individuals who qualify under various Department of Health and Human Services programs, community correction services, and juvenile services. By increasing these funds, these providers will be able to serve more people across the state.
The Legislature is also replenishing the cash reserve fund by providing an additional $351 million dollars bringing the total balance to $763 million dollars. This “rainy day fund” helps cover the State’s cash flow needs to continue State operations if there is a disruption in regular revenues.
This week, I was also appointed to the LR 29 – Eastern Service Child Welfare Contract Special Investigative and Oversight Committee of the Legislature. This Committee will investigate the circumstances relating to the procurement of the Saint Francis child welfare contract by the Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Health and Human Services. The Committee will also investigate the implementation and oversight of the child welfare contract itself.
As you may remember, Saint Francis submitted an unreasonably low bid to win the award, and returned to the state less than two years later to ask for an additional $110 million dollars, which is a more expensive contract than what competing bidders were requesting to provide these same services. At the same time, they still have not met the requirements established by the contract in the first place.
Over the last three years, I have introduced legislation to address procurement reform. If that legislation had been enacted two years ago, this entire situation would have likely been prevented. I look forward to working with this committee to further shine the light on this sloppy, mismanaged procurement for child welfare services that did not follow the Department of Administrative Services’ own procurement manual, the request for proposal, or even Nebraska law, which has placed the children of Nebraska at risk.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.