The report entitled “Trends in Nebraska State Spending,” tracks state governmental spending from 1967 to 2017.
Platte Institute Policy Director Sarah Curry says 1967 was chosen for a reason, because Nebraska state government changed how it generated revenue that year by implementing both an income and a sales tax.
Curry says total state spending, adjusted for inflation, has grown 384% since 1968 though the state population has grown by only 31%.
Policy Director Sarah Curry says it’s no coincidence the report has been issued prior to a legislative session which will draft a new two-year state budget.
“We have a pie and we only have so much of the pie to spread around and if one slice, let’s say Health and Human Services, gets a little bit bigger that means someone else is going to have to get a little bit smaller,” Curry tells reporters during a conference call. “And, so I hope that incoming lawmakers and existing lawmakers can look at this history and maybe have a better idea of where we came from and why we are spending what we are today.”
The total state budget, as a percentage of personal income, has grown from 6.9% in 1967 to 12.3% in 2017, according to the report.
One trend outlined in the report could be disconcerting. General Fund spending has steadily increased since 2011 even as federal funds have been slowly decreasing. The report says the state has filled the gap.
The Department of Health and Human Services is the largest state agency. It has grown 65% since 1998, according to the report.
Transportation has traditionally been one of the largest expenditures by state government, but since 1998 the Public Employees’ Retirement System has grown 441%, exceeding transportation spending.
Curry says while much attention is paid to the General Fund, spending outside the General Fund keeps eating up more of the state budget. According to the report, in 2017, per capita spending for the General Fund was $2,255 while per capita spending for every other fund in the state was $3,925. Curry says Nebraskans need to refocus their attention on total expenditures, rather than concentrating so much on the General Fund.
Click here to read the full report.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]