|Senators move budget to select file with little dissent|
|Written by Wauneta Breeze|
|Thursday, 05 May 2011 17:09|
Telephone conference report to Palisade, Grant on Tuesday, May 3
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Nebraska’s Legislature moved the 2011-12-13 biennial budget bills forward to Select File Monday.
Senator Mark Christensen said most of the senators were already well acquainted with the budget, due to the budget reductions necessary to balance it.
Christensen said the state got some good news with revenue forecasts improving for April and for 2011-12 and 2012-13.
That provided some $233 million in leeway to replenish the cash reserve fund in the coming years.
Originally, the budget deficit was projected at $968 million for the biennial period. That figure was later adjusted down to about $680 million.
Still, Christensen said the deficit may not be that high. Some of the deficit was created from the loss of stimulus money that was included in last year’s budget adjustments.
As a result, state aid to schools got trimmed significantly after losing $140 million in stimulus money.
In addition, state aid was slashed another $185.9 million over the next two years.
Aid to cities was eliminated, totalling $10.9 million, counties lost $9.65 million in aid and natural resources districts lost $1.4 million.
Cuts to Health and Human Services for such things as Medicaid, children’s health insurance, behavorial management, care management and aging aid totalled more than $47 million.
Christensen said the Legislature will take $128 million from the state’s cash reserves each of the next two years to help balance the budget.
He said this would leave reserves at $65 million. The state must retain a 3 percent reserve at all times.
With increased revenue projections, Christensen said he and others want to see the cash reserve built back up for another “rainy day” scenario.
CIR debate, re-districting
With the budget moving more smoothly than expected, more floor time has been scheduled for debate on the Court of Industrial Relations.
This court mediates contract disputes between unionized public employees and the public entities that employ them.
Christensen said he was surprised to see a bill move out of committee due to the heavy union lobbying, primarily by the teachers’, firemen and police unions.
He said there have been some compromises to legislation guiding the CIR.
One compromise by the teachers’ union would allow a district to do a reduction-in-force (RIF) of a tenured teacher not doing the job, while allowing tenure to be given to a younger teacher. Now, a younger teacher would be the first on the RIF list based on seniority.
Christensen said people on both sides of the issue are upset with the proposal. That probably means it’s a good bill if both sides are mad, he added.
The CIR bill was scheduled for first-round debate this week.
Christensen said the re-districting bill has not yet hit the floor.
He said that will likely generate some lively debate, as well, as it looks like one western legislative district may be cut.
LB589 advanced 41-0 Monday, allowing villages, cities and counties to close down a state highway for local celebrations and parades.
Legislators did amend the bill to place 100 percent of the liability on the licensing entity if any accident occurs due to the closing.
That amendment will likely cause many public bodies to re-think a request due to the assumption of the liability required.