Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
One of the most important state issues is passing a balanced budget every two years. We just finished that process in the recently completed legislative session. I want to take this opportunity to share the key elements in the new budget and other appropriations and tax issues.
Most importantly, we passed a balanced budget without raising income or sales taxes and by controlling spending. Our priorities were education and jobs.
Education is the great equalizer and we invest in education because it is important to Nebraska's future. The state budget continues to make K-12 education a priority by increasing state aid to education from $852 million to $940 million in fiscal year 2015. Additionally, we increased special education funding in each of the next two years by five percent.
I am very pleased that our biennium budget will include the necessary funding to allow the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska State College System to implement a two year tuition freeze for Nebraska students attending UNL, UNK, UNO, UNMC, Chadron State, Wayne State and Peru State.
We helped Nebraska families who are trying to save for their son or daughter's college by increasing the income tax deduction when you contribute to the Nebraska College Savings Plan. For married persons filing separately, the deduction would double from $2,500 to $5,000. For all other tax filers, the deduction would double from $5,000 to $10,000.
We eliminated Nebraska's alternative minimum tax which will help Nebraska middle class families keep more of the money they earn. We helped small businesses by allowing them to carry forward their net operating losses for 20 years instead of the current policy of five years. This change is especially important to start-up small businesses.
The new budget includes the $47 million dollars I requested for a new Central Nebraska Veterans Home. Having a new, modern facility to care for our veterans is very important.
One of the reasons why Nebraska is in better shape than most states is our strong cash reserve. This budget rebuilds the cash reserve from its current $384 million to approximately $627 million.
The budget for the Department of Health and Human Services includes funding for increased rates for those who provide services for the Medicaid, CHIP, Behavior Health, Aging and Child Care programs.
It also includes funding for renovation of the building on the Hastings Regional Center campus for the adolescent chemical dependency program and demolition of vacant buildings and funds to remodel a building at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney.
The budget for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services' increases the funding for staff to provide safety and security as they continue to manage the increasing number of inmates incarcerated in Nebraska prisons. The Nebraska State Patrol is receiving additional funding to dedicate six experienced officers to focus on liquor control issues.
The State General Fund budget for fiscal year 2013-14 is $3.8 billion. I hope this column provides you a better idea of what's in the state budget.
- Dave Heineman
Governor of Nebraska