When Nebraska legislators start their 90-day session on Wednesday, one priority will be passage of a new two-year state budget that addresses the expected-$900-million revenue shortfall.
Senator Roy Baker of Lincoln says dissatisfaction over taxes is another key issue before the Unicameral.
“There’ll be looks at ways to maybe broaden the tax base for a sales tax and some things like that to offset some property tax,” Baker says.
Baker expects few bills proposing significant spending will make it through this coming year’s session, though he admits the state will need to spend significant money on state prison issues.
Public school officials will be watching to see how budget discussions may impact aid to education.
Beatrice school superintendent Pat Nauroth says schools will be watching lawmakers for any changes in the school aid formula.
“One of their larger expenditures is to K-12 education,” Nauroth says. “While Nebraska doesn’t rank very high in the amount of money it puts toward state education, it’s still a sizeable amount of money and any adjustment of the funding formula is going to affect us.”
Schools like Beatrice District 15 also face facilities issues, where voters have turned down two bond issues aimed at replacing four elementary buildings that are 60 years old with a new pre-kindergarten through 5th grade building.
“Property taxes seem to be an unequal share of the tax burden,” Nauroth says. “Are there other ways to help fund and help schools fund infrastructure costs? Beatrice is not alone in having infrastructure that gets older and older and something needs to happen with it.”
The new legislative session will begin with 17 new faces in the 49-member Unicameral.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice