(Neb)-State Budget Wins Easy First-Round Approval Listen
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers have given first-round approval to a 2-year, $9.3 billion dollar budget package that includes additional money for expanding Medicaid, K-12 schools, construction of new prison space and property tax credits.
The mainline budget with most of the spending advanced on a 42-4 vote.
The only change to the package crafted by the Appropriations Committee was the restoration of $51-million dollars to the state's property tax credit fund, which provided about $86 worth of property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 house last year.
Gov Pete Ricketts had proposed increasing the fund by $51-million each year of the biennium, increasing the credit to about $106, but the committee felt it was more important to rebuild the state's rainy day fund and put half the money into the reserve...which has fallen from $730 million four years ago to about $330 million now.
Ricketts had blasted committee members, saying they cared more about having money for future spending than about giving residents badly needed property tax relief. Floor debate ignored the spending accusation and focused on the idea of property tax relief.
Appropriations chairman John Stinner of Gering sharply defended the move to the rainy day fund, reminding his colleagues that the fund is less than half the level recommended by the Legislative Fiscal Office.
The Revenue Committee has a bill on the floor that would provide $500-million dollars in property tax relief through increased school aid funded by sales and tobacco tax increases and the elimination of many sales tax exemptions.
Its passage, though, looks doubtful and several senators said the governor's proposal would provide at least some property tax relief.
Senators voted 28-8 to restore the money, with Panhandle senators Tom Brewer and Steve Erdman part of the majority and Stinner in the minority. Stinner made it clear he thought it was a bad choice.
Second-round debate on the budget package is expected to start next week.
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