A proposed $7.8 billion state spending plan for the next two years has been formally delivered to the legislature.
Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, says the proposal approved by the committee invests heavily in education, both public schools and universities.
It increases state spending by 5.2%, slightly more than the recommended budget submitted by Gov. Dave Heineman.
Mello says the governor’s proposed budget provided a very good foundation for the committee to build upon.
“I feel we do it in a very moderate, centrist approach, understanding that there are limitations,” Mello tells Nebraska Radio Network. “As I mentioned before that we have some projected revenue growth coming in and we are taking a more cautious approach with that projected revenue and putting it into the state’s cash reserve.”
The committee recommendations set aside more money for early childhood education. They also propose spending on capital improvement projects. Money is set aside for a new nursing facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as well as renovations at Chadron State and Wayne State Colleges. Capital improvement funds also are allocated for the Nebraska Historical Society.
Some good news came in before the budget arrived.
A compromise on public school funding will save $8.6 million dollars, money now available for bills with price tags attached.
Also, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board has revised its state revenue estimate, increasing it by $53 million. The Appropriations Committee recommends transferring that money into the state cash reserve fund, rather than spending it. Mello says that could provide a cushion if the group reviewing possible tax reform comes back with a proposal that lowers taxes.
The legislature begins debate on the budget bills next week.
Click here to go to a link to the Appropriations Committee proposed FY 2013-14/FY 2014-15 Biennial Budget.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]