Session Review: Appropriations

Senators passed several bills this session comprising the state’s $8.6 billion budget package. Budget growth in the Appropriations Committee’s proposal is an average of 3.1 percent over the two-year budget period.

Portions of several bills relating to funding for various projects at the University of Nebraska were incorporated into the budget proposal:
LB532, introduced by Omaha Sen. Robert Hilkemann, which transfers $25 million from the cash reserve to the Nebraska Capital Construction Fund to design and build the Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC);
LB533, introduced by Gering Sen. John Stinner, which appropriates $3 million for operations at the center;
LB154, introduced by Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley, which appropriates $4.95 million for economic competitiveness initiatives;
LB417, introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, which appropriates $3 million for pediatric cancer research at UNMC;
LB496, introduced by Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn, which appropriates $2.5 million for the Yeutter Institute for International Trade and Finance;
LB110, introduced by O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, which appropriates $600,000 for pediatric cancer research and clinical care at UNMC; and
LB593, introduced by Nordquist, which appropriates $250,000 to UNMC to study current health data systems available to the state and make recommendations about health data systems that would be beneficial to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of public health care dollars spent in Nebraska.

Additional bills incorporated into the budget package include:
LB584, introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, which transfers $8 million from the cash reserve to the Oral Health Training and Services Fund;
LB82, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tanya Cook, which appropriates $2.8 million to the state’s seven federally-qualified health centers to expand dental services;
LB185, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, which appropriates $940,000 to implement provisions of the Master Teacher Program;
LB229, introduced by Syracuse Sen. Dan Watermeier, which appropriates $600,000 to the Supreme Court for state aid to the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program;
LB263, introduced by Wahoo Sen. Jerry Johnson, which transfers $200,000 to the Nebraska State Historical Society for the Nebraska Main Street Program; and
LB233, introduced by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard, which appropriates $200,000 to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to contract with UNMC for the Nebraska Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative.

Included in the budget package passed by lawmakers this year were:
LB656, which provides for deficit appropriations and passed 49-0;
LB657, which appropriates funds for state government expenses and passed 49-0;
LB658, which provides funds for the salaries of Nebraska state senators and passed 49-0;
LB659, which provides salaries for state constitutional officers and passed 48-1;
LB660, which funds capital construction and property acquisition and passed 48-0;
LB661, which makes various cash fund transfers and passed 40-9;
LB662, which provides transfers from the cash reserve and passed 42-7;
LB663, which provides salaries for judges and passed 47-2; and
LB554, which provides for payment of claims against the state and passed 49-0.

The governor offered no vetoes to the budget bills this session.

Other bills

Four measures heard by the committee also passed this session.

LB33, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, requires the fiscal office to produce a revenue volatility report in advance of new biennial budgets.

The bill contains provisions of LB32, also introduced by Mello, that require the state Department of Correctional Services to include a strategic plan in their budget appropriation requests for the biennium ending June 30, 2019, and the biennium ending June 30, 2021. The plan will identify the main purpose of each departmental program and provide key goals as measures of progress.

The bill passed 44-0.

LB449, also introduced by Mello, increases the maximum amount of microloan funds from $1 million to $2 million that can be awarded annually by the state Department of Economic Development (DED).

The bill contains provisions of LB450, introduced by Mello, that require the Nebraska Tourism Commission to expand the use of tourism promotion funds for marketing assistance grants to communities and organizations.

The bill also contains provisions of two bills originally introduced by Bancroft Sen. Lydia Brasch:
LB569 increases from $1 million to $4 million the maximum amount that DED may award annually through several matching federal grant programs; and
LB571 authorizes the commission to use highway markers to identify significant tourism attractions in the state.

The bill passed on a vote of 48-0 and takes effect immediately.

LB430, also introduced by Mello, corrects an error in appropriation for the Nebraska Children’s Commission and allows a transfer within DHHS.

In 2013, the Legislature moved the Nebraska Children’s Commission from DHHS to the Foster Care Review Office. However, $94,000 of the commission’s appropriation was inadvertently left in the DHHS budget.

LB430 moves that amount to the Foster Care Review Office. The bill also transfers $7 million of unexpended general funds from the DHHS public assistance program to the state’s child welfare program. The bill passed 43-0.

Several bills had public hearings but remain in committee, including:
LB633, introduced by Stinner, which would appropriate $40 million in state aid to counties and municipalities;
LB560, introduced by Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams, which would appropriate $25 million to construct facilities at the Nebraska Innovation Campus;
LB374, introduced by Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar, which would direct automatic transfers from the State Recreation Road Fund when the fund exceeds $15 million to the Game and Parks State Park Improvement and Maintenance Fund;
LB565, introduced by Kuehn, which would provide $10 million to the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education to provide financial support for students enrolled in high-need programs;
LB461, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, which would appropriate $3 million annually to the Nebraska Forest Service for the Nebraska Tree Recovery Program;
LB108, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, which would appropriate $500,000 to the University of Nebraska to establish behavioral health master’s level internships in rural and underserved areas of Nebraska;
LB436, introduced by Cook, which would appropriate $425,000 to expand a state-supported pediatric dentistry residency program; and
LB381, introduced by Cook, which would appropriate $200,000 for housing services to support individuals recovering from substance abuse disorders.

Four proposals to provide property tax relief to Nebraskans in addition to the $128 million included in the budget package also remain in committee.

Three of the bills would make general fund transfers to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund:
LB309, introduced by Hyannis Sen. Al Davis, would transfer $25 million each fiscal year;
LB364, introduced by Watermeier, would transfer $60 million each fiscal year; and
LB442, introduced by Bolz, would transfer $20 million each fiscal year.

LB387, introduced by Scribner Sen. David Schnoor, would authorize a one-time transfer of $60 million from the state’s Cash Reserve Fund by Dec. 15, 2015.

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