The Nebraska Legislature would be required to provide full reimbursement to political subdivisions for any new program or expansion of an existing program under a proposed constitutional amendment advanced from general file March 28.
LR263CA, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would require, beginning in 2023, that the state pay the full costs of new programs or increased levels of service required under an existing program, either through general fund appropriations or an increase in state distribution of revenue to the impacted political subdivision.
If approved by lawmakers, the proposal would be placed on the ballot for voter approval in the 2022 general election.
Blood said unfunded mandates on political subdivisions have increased in recent years and her proposal would help reduce property taxes in Nebraska.
“When we place an unfunded or under-funded mandate on our political subdivisions, they really have few options when it comes to paying for those mandates outside of property taxes,” she said.
Adams Sen. Myron Dorn supported LR263CA. Dorn, a former member of the Gage County Board of Supervisors, said state laws often are a burden on counties.
“We always kind of joked that it was a great day when the Legislature adjourned and they couldn’t make more laws,” he said.
Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson opposed the resolution, saying it was too broad and raised many questions.
“If we change building codes for a city and suddenly there’s some cost there, does the state have to pick that up?” he said. “We have put things on the counties that I don’t feel counties should pay for … but I think [this] legislation goes too far.”
Several lawmakers, including Sen. John Arch of La Vista, said they supported the proposal’s intent but were concerned about its implementation.
“How do we adjudicate the cost of this? How do we even define what an unfunded mandate is?” he said.
Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard supported LR263CA, saying lawmakers are capable of addressing those concerns if the constitutional amendment is approved.
Senators advanced LR263CA to select file on a 34-5 vote.