Unicam Sends Budget To Gov, Includes Money For Possible New Prison

     Nebraska lawmakers have given final approval to a $9.7-billion dollar 2-year state budget, sending it to Gov Pete Ricketts. He has five calendar days, excluding Sunday, to sign, veto, or line-item veto parts of the budget bills.

      If Ricketts does issue line-item vetoes, the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee must report on the fiscal impact of the vetoes within one day and may offer a motion to override any or all of them. Thirty votes are required to override a veto.

        The budget bill includes $100-million dollars in funding for a new, $230 million dollar prison, but doesn’t authorize spending it. What is authorized is $14.9-million to design and pick a location for the new 1,512-bed prison and for an engineering study on the remaining useful life of the 152-year old State Penitentiary.

      The new prison is being touted as a replacement for the Penitentiary, holding all levels of inmates, and as a key part of reducing overcrowding. Nebraska had the second-highest level of prison overcrowding in the nation in 2019. 

      The budget has $15 million for the Prison Overcrowding Contingency Fund which can be used to increase programming such as classes and training for inmates as well as for community alternatives to prison, and $200,000 to contract with the University of Nebraska to study inmate classification within the Dept of Correctional Services.      The budget package won final approval despite objections from a few lawmakers who said the state should be spending more money on housing, education, mental health services and other priorities instead of a new prison.