AppropriationsSession Review 2024

Session Review: Appropriations Committee

Lawmakers made adjustments to the state’s two-year budget, approved a number of claims against the state and authorized millions in state dollars for private school K-12 scholarships this session.

LB1412, introduced by Speaker John Arch of La Vista at the request of Gov. Jim Pillen, provides, changes and eliminates appropriations for the operation of state government, postsecondary education, state aid, capital construction and federal funds allocated to the state from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Included in the bill are provisions of more than a dozen proposals heard by the Appropriations Committee this session, including:
• LB850, sponsored by North Platte Sen. Mike Jacobson, which clarifies that $10 million in ARPA funds appropriated to the state Department of Economic Development for the Rural Workforce Housing Act may be used for other specific types of housing projects administered by the department;
• LB930, introduced by Omaha Sen. John Fredrickson, which allows an existing $400,000 annual General Fund appropriation to the University of Nebraska to be used for youth rehabilitation and treatment centers and county correctional facility programs for students studying to become behavioral health professionals;
• LB941, sponsored by Sen. Myron Dorn of Adams, which appropriates $1.5 million in federal ARPA funds in FY2023-24 to increase to $67 the daily reimbursement rate for Medicaid assisted-living facilities in rural parts of the state;
• LB1077, introduced by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell, which appropriates $900,000 in federal ARPA funds in FY2023-24 to the state Department of Labor for workforce development and career readiness grants;
• LB1210, sponsored by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood, which appropriates $1.5 million from the Cash Reserve Fund to the Nebraska Capital Construction Fund for the 5th floor Capitol renovation; and
• LB1289, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Eliot Bostar, which appropriates $3 million in general funds in FY2024-25 for a grant to a municipal airport located in a primary class city.

Lawmakers passed LB1412 on a vote of 42-6 and the bill took effect immediately.

LB1413, also introduced by Arch at the request of the governor, provides for the transfer of funds and creates and changes the use and distribution of funds. The bill authorizes a “sweep” of funds from approximately 20 state agencies, transferring those dollars to the state General Fund.

Among the proposals included in the bill are:
• LB975, introduced by Sumner Sen. Teresa Ibach, which amends the Shovel-Ready Capital Recovery and Investment Act to include an additional type of qualified nonprofit;
• LB1233, sponsored by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, which authorizes the Game and Parks Commission to award a grant to a federally recognized Indian tribe to construct, develop and manage a museum honoring Chief Standing Bear and transfers $15.75 million from interest earned on the Perkins County Canal Project Fund to fund the grant; and
• LB1352, introduced by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, which authorizes the state Auditor of Public Accounts to exercise exclusive authority to conduct the Statewide Single Audit for Federal Funds, including ARPA funds.

LB1413 passed on a 37-8 vote and took effect immediately.

A bill to provide payment for a series of claims against the state and agency write-offs was approved by lawmakers this session.

LB1188, introduced by Ralston Sen. Merv Riepe at the request of the state Department of Administrative Services Risk Management Division, approves $710,000 in workers’ compensation claims. It also approves a number of agency write-offs, including a total of $1.948 million by the state Department of Labor and $1.495 million by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill also includes the remaining $7.45 million to finalize payments to the family of a Kearney man injured when his vehicle was struck by an individual involved in a high-speed chase while fleeing a stop by the Nebraska State Patrol.

LB1188 passed on a 45-0 vote and took effect immediately.

Other measures

Senators approved a proposal that will provide millions in state dollars to fund private school scholarships.

LB1402, sponsored by Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, requires the state treasurer to establish a program to provide scholarships to eligible students to pay costs associated with attending a qualified K-12 school.

A qualified school is defined as any nongovernmental, privately operated nonprofit elementary or secondary school that complies with certain federal anti-discrimination provisions and fulfills the applicable accreditation or approval requirements established by the State Board of Education.

The bill appropriates $10 million in general funds in FY2024-25 and FY2025-26 to the state treasurer to carry out the program. The treasurer may contract with a third party to administer the program and up to 7.5% of the funds appropriated may be used for administrative expenses.

LB1402 outlines eligibility requirements for students and contains a priority ranking system for scholarship distribution. Individual scholarships are limited to 75% of the statewide average general fund expenditure for public school students.

The state treasurer will report annually to the governor and the Legislature regarding the number of scholarships awarded, the number of students currently wait-listed, recipients’ demographic data and other information.

LB1402 also repeals the Opportunity Scholarships Act, passed by the Legislature in 2023.

An initial vote on the bill’s passage fell one vote short of the 33 needed for it to take effect immediately. Pursuant to the rules of the Legislature, a second vote was taken and LB1402 passed 32-14. The measure will take effect three calendar months after passage as a result.

Two bills related to the use of federal ARPA funds failed to advance from committee this session.

In 2022, the Legislature appropriated $2.5 million in ARPA funds to the state Department of Health and Human Services to be used to increase the number of behavioral and mental health beds in rural Nebraska. Those dollars were returned to the state because they were insufficient to increase capacity as intended.

LB931, sponsored by Fredrickson, would have re-appropriated the funds to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents for Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska initiatives.

LB1079, introduced by McDonnell, would have appropriated $10 million in ARPA funds to the state Department of Economic Development to contract with the Nebraska Investment Financing Authority to develop units eligible for federal 4% and 9% low-income housing credits.

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