Lower expected revenue for Nebraska means lawmakers will have a challenging budget session next year.
The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board revised its projections down $172 million this fiscal year and $200 million next year.
State Senator Mike Gloor, who chaired the Revenue Committee this past session, says lower commodity prices and farm incomes are part of the problem, but he adds that lawmakers are responsible too.
“What people forget, and need to be reminded of, is that probably half of that shortfall is a result of tax cuts,” Gloor tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We gave back a lot of money to taxpayers.”
Gloor is leaving the legislature because of term limits, but he says increasing the tobacco tax will raise needed revenue.
“It’s one of the lowest in the nation. Other states are increasing it to address some of their budget challenges,” he says.
Legislation Gloor proposed this year would have increased the current 64 cents per pack tax by $1.50 to $2.14 per pack.
“At some point and time, it’s going to be increased,” he says. “Why not increase it at a time when we could use the additional revenue?”
Gov. Pete Ricketts responded to the revised forecast, but mentioned nothing about raising taxes.
“I will continue to work with state agencies to constrain spending and prepare budget cuts for the session that begins in January,” Ricketts stated in a news release.