Unicam Appropriations Committee Releases Preliminary State Budget

     The Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has released its preliminary budget and it doesn’t include some of the major items laid out by Gov Pete Ricketts last month in his State of the State Address. 

      Among them  is a transfer of $88 million dollars to the cash reserve, triggering the release of another $175 million from the reserve for an income tax credit to offset property taxes. Committee Chair John Stinner told NET the panel hasn’t rejected the idea, it’s just tabled it for more discussion.

Currently, someone who pays $2,000 in property taxes this fiscal year would get a $120 tax credit. That would go up to $350 next year or $475 if the governor’s plan is approved and valuations and tax levies remain the same.

       Ricketts blasted the committee’s lack of action on the increase, saying that instead of delivering the full potential of property tax relief the panel wants to steer the money towards more government spending.

        The  preliminary budget includes no money for now for higher reimbursements to Medicaid providers. Stinner says the committee is waiting to hear about the effect of federal COVID funding before making a decision.

     Also missing is $115-million over the next 2 years for a $230-million 1,500 bed prison, but Stinner says it’s another proposal that easily could be in the final budget.

Director of Correctional Services Scott Frakes offered new cost estimates to justify converting the State Penitentiary to minimum-security and move maximum-security inmates to the proposed new prison.

      Frakes said the conversion would cost only about $24-million while upgrades needed to continue to house maximum-security prisoners would be $196-million.