Session Review: Appropriations


Published July 8, 2013

Senators passed a $7.8 billion, two-year budget package this session.

Budget growth in the Appropriations Committee’s proposal is 5.7 percent in fiscal year 2013-14 and 4.8 percent in FY2014-15, for a two-year average of 5.2 percent.

Provisions of several bills heard by the committee were incorporated into the budget proposal, including:
LB126, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, which transfers $500,000 annually to the Court Appointed Special Advocate Fund;
LB193, introduced by Omaha Sen. John Nelson, which modified the schedule of general fund transfers to the state’s cultural preservation fund;
LB285, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, which eliminated scheduled reductions in transfers from the state’s Health Care Cash Fund;
LB519, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, which appropriates funds to upgrade the Nebraska History Museum; and
LB486, introduced by Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas, which appropriated funds to pay Nebraska’s annual dues to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact.

The rail compact dues later were line-item vetoed by Gov. Dave Heineman and an attempt by Dubas to override the veto failed on a 13-19 vote. Thirty votes were needed.

Senators made few changes to the committee’s recommendations during debate on the budget package. Among the adjustments were an additional $53 million transfer to the state’s Cash Reserve Fund and a $36,000 increase in funding to the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs to fund an administrative assistant position.

LB195, the mainline budget bill, passed on a vote of 46-3.

Lawmakers also voted to incorporate LB504, originally introduced to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee by Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, into LB199, which makes various cash fund transfers. The provisions expand the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs’ ability to utilize the agency’s Designated Collection Fund.

LB199 passed 49-0.

Additional bills included in the budget package were:
• LB194, which provides for deficit appropriations, passed 49-0;
• LB196, which provides for the salaries of Nebraska state senators, passed 48-0;
• LB197, which funds salaries and benefits for judges and constitutional officers, passed 48-0;
• LB198, which funds capital construction projects and property acquisition, passed 42-3;
• LB200, which provides transfers from the cash reserve, passed 49-0; and
• LB536, which approves claims against the state, passed 46-0.

The governor returned the budget package with 21 line-item vetoes, including approximately $40 million in cuts from LB195 to general, federal and cash funds over the next two years. Senators voted 32-5 to override a little more than half of those vetoes. These included:
• $4 million from the Securities Act cash fund for appropriations for the Homeless Shelter Assistance, the Affordable Housing Trust and Legal Aid and Services;
• $4 million to the state Department of Roads for assistance to local transit authorities for mass transit aid;
• $775,000 for the state’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program and salary increases for County Court employees;
• $600,000 to the state’s Federally Qualified Health Centers;
• $450,000 to the Omaha Learning Community;
• $300,000 to fund a Dental Health Director; and
• $140,000 to the Postsecondary Education Commission for a data analyst position.

Additional override motions that were unsuccessful would have restored funds to the Auditor of Public Accounts for baseline funding and salary increases, the Public Service Commission to fund a railroad inspector position and payment of state dues to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact.

Vetoed items in LB195 that were not challenged included:
• $90,880 to fund a retirement specialist position with the Public Employees Retirement Board;
• $100,000 to the University of Nebraska to fund a DUI recidivism study;
• $128,547 to fund increased staffing at the Foster Care Review Office;
• $300,000 to increase staffing at the Nebraska Tourism Commission;
• $369,001 to fund salary increases for probation officers; and
• $2.84 million that will delay replacement of the state’s Medicaid data management system for one year.

Lawmakers also voted to override three line-item vetoes in LB198, which appropriates funds for capital construction and property acquisition. These included:
• $2.95 million to construct a University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing building in Lincoln;
• $1.4 million from the $6 million allocated for renovation of the Nebraska History Museum; and
• $544,000 from the Capitol Commission to fund improvements to the State Capitol.

The motion to override the governor’s vetoes in LB198 was adopted on a 34-5 vote.

Other bills

Several bills had public hearings but remain in committee. Among them are:
LB375, introduced by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, which would allocate $41 million annually for services to people on the state’s developmental disabilities waiting list;
LB190, introduced by Scottsbluff Sen. John Harms, which would appropriate $10 million annually from the state’s general fund to the Early Childhood Education Endowment Cash Fund;
LB119, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tanya Cook, which would appropriate $3.6 million annually for distribution to each of the state’s 18 local public health departments to improve preventive health programs;
LB122, introduced by Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, which would provide $2 million to conduct a comprehensive study of the feasibility of building a hydroelectric dam on the Platte River;
LB20, introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, which would appropriate annually $600,000 in general funds and $600,000 in cash funds to the Rural Health Provider Incentive Program.
LB184, introduced by Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar, which would appropriate $50,000 annually to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents for the Nebraska Wind Application Center;
LB4, introduced by Krist, which would postpone for two years the implementation of reductions to fund transfers from the state’s Health Care Cash Fund; and
LB185, introduced by Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen, which would authorize $40 million in loans to Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) with an integrated management plan that have entered into contracts to construct or implement streamflow enhancement projects.

Finally, LB286, introduced by Conrad, would have directed Nebraska’s share of funds from a national mortgage settlement toward housing assistance. The bill would have made the following transfers:
• $5.4 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
• $1 million to the Homeless Shelter Assistance Trust Fund; and
• $1 million to the Legal Aid and Services Fund.

The committee’s budget proposal instead allocated the following annual amounts:
• $1.25 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
• $250,000 to the Homeless Shelter Assistance Trust Fund; and
• $500,000 to the Legal Aid and Services Fund.


Image of Sen. Heath Mello, chairperson of the Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Heath Mello, chairperson of the Appropriations Committee.