Two straight months of lower-than-expected state revenue is prompting Gov. Pete Ricketts to ask agencies to spend with caution.
He is directing the budget office to hold back one percent of agencies’ quarterly allotment from the general fund.
“This is not actually a reduction in the appropriation, only the legislature has the authority to be able to do that,” Ricketts announced at a news conference. “This is really just reducing the amount of the allotment that we’re giving to the agencies to encourage that fiscal responsibility.”
The governor says computer and equipment purchases need to be coordinated with the Office of the CIO, and agencies should partner with other governmental agencies to find savings.
“When it comes to hiring, if they have positions that they don’t need to fill or that they can delay, [it is recommended] they look at doing that,” Ricketts says. “I want them to really prioritize their travel. If there’s any travel they could, again, do without, we want to make sure we do that.”
Tony Fulton, state tax commissioner, says the $95 million shortfall is due to the agriculture economy and lower commodity prices.
“That translates in a number of ways in the economy, not least of which is in sales tax,” Fulton says. “It’s easy to see how individual income tax would be down from such a phenomenon, but with respect to sales tax, those households are less able to go out and purchase things.”
Fulton says corporate income tax revenue is below forecast as well.
Gerry Oligmueller, state budget administrator, says his office is ready to work with agencies.
“You exercise additional scrutiny in regards to your spending decisions,” he says. “You look for ways to save. Position yourself for a possible reductions in appropriations, if that becomes necessary.”
Oligmueller says the legislature will be able to make changes in appropriations during the next session before the fiscal year ends June 30th.
Gov. Ricketts wants other state boards and commissions to help out.
“A lot of the non-code agencies actually receive fees or are cash funded and so forth, so they’re not directly General Fund related,” Ricketts says, “but what we’re asking them to do is take a look at those, be good stewards, reduce their fees, keep lower cash balances when they build up cash reserves, keep those lower, so they can return those fees, essentially, back to Nebraskans to help with economic activity.”