State lawmakers have wrapped up the 2017 legislative session; a session in which dealing with a dire state budget overshadowed all other issues.
Legislators began the session in January with a projected billion dollar hole in the state budget.
First, they accepted Gov. Pete Ricketts’ challenge to shore up the current fiscal year budget, then they tackled the much bigger problem: the biennium budget which would guide state spending for the next two fiscal years.
The legislature’s Appropriations Committee recommended $700 million in cuts, supplemented by transfers from the state “rainy day” fund the sweeping of fund balances from numerous state agencies to address the revenue shortfall.
“Am I satisfied with the budget? I don’t have to be satisfied with the budget,” Legislative Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Scheer says, as Speaker, he merely needed to guide the process which produced the $8.9 billion spending blueprint for the two-year period which begins July first.
The Unicameral had to deal with a revenue downturn, a different financial outlook than it faced the last time it crafted a biennium budget.
“It’s a much, much harder process,” according to Scheer. “I don’t think anyone liked the budget as an end result.”
Gov. Ricketts praises how lawmakers dealt with the budget.
“And we really did something unprecedented in this session,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We passed two budget bills. Nobody can ever remember that happening.”
Ricketts wasn’t completely satisfied with the work of legislators. He used his line-item budget veto authority to cut an additional $56.5 million from the budget the Unicameral approved. Legislators attempted to override $32.7 million of the budget vetoes, but fell short of the votes needed.
The big loss of Ricketts: the failure of a tax relief package to win approval.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]