Nebraska lawmakers advance $10 billion two-year budget

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Lawmakers voted 36-4 on Wednesday night to advance Nebraska’s proposed budget for the next two years to the next round of debate.

The $10 billion proposal leaves a little more than $700 million in expected revenue unallocated.

But that surplus is about $100 million less than the projected cost of two tax relief packages this session.

So some proposals may need to be scaled back.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan previously suggested cutting the $35 million tax break on child care, or $80 million aimed at helping hospitals and nursing homes.

But other senators say that $80 million is key to putting an end to widespread health care staffing shortages.

“As a committee this year, we were very cautious about how we spent dollars, about how much money we left in the floor for individuals to utilize on legislative priorities,” said Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln.

Gov. Jim Pillen made his top priorities clear in this year’s State of the State Address.

“I am asking the Legislature to phase down our individual income and business tax rates to 3.99% by 2027, enabling Nebraska to be more competitive in attracting and retaining investment, talent, and new opportunities,” he said. “This is key to stopping out-migration. I am also asking the Legislature to exempt Social Security income from state taxes by next year, providing considerable tax relief to retired Nebraskans.”

Pillen also proposed using $1 billion next fiscal year to start an education fund, which is included in the budget.

Each year after that, $250 million would be added to the fund.

Some senators expressed concerns on the priorities of the budget, including the construction of a new state prison.

“This budget is about playing politics at its worst,” said Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln. “Pet projects, prisons, stealing from the poor and propping up tax cuts that are unaffordable, inequitable and unsustainable.”

The budget must be approved two more times before it goes to Pillen’s desk.

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