A bill cutting $137 million from the current state budget has been signed.
Now, the Unicameral turns its attention to a more difficult task: the upcoming two-year state budget.
Appropriations Committee chair, Sen. John Stinner of Gering, expects tough debate when the biennium budget hits the floor.
“I think it has to be a deliberative process, people need to test us and to look at areas that they have of interest,” Stinner tells reporters during a signing ceremony for LB 22.
It took days for Stinner to get LB 22 through the legislature as senators complained about the process, some accusing Gov. Pete Ricketts of violating the state constitution by making unilateral budget cuts. Critics even took the unusual step of mounting a last-minute filibuster against the bill before its final passage of a 42-3.
Did he consider that debate a deliberative process?
“A lot of it was pointed at the governor, some of the things that they felt about that, but some of it was about the budget,” Stinner says.
As for the governor, Ricketts doesn’t focus on the process, but on the result.
“The Appropriations Committee took these recommendations at the beginning of January and here we are six weeks later and we’ve got a signed document,” Ricketts says. “When’s the last time that happened?”
But, did the criticism on the floor offend him?
“No, not at all. To the senator’s point, that’s part of the process is the deliberation.”
The $137 million dollars in budget cuts this fiscal year should soften the blow of an expected $900 million dollar revenue shortfall over the next two fiscal years, at least that’s the plan. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board meets again later this month. It could forecast an even bigger budget hole.
Both Ricketts and Stinner acknowledge the budget outlook is more likely to grow worse than better after that meeting.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:55]