Governor Pete Ricketts approved the Nebraska state biennium budget on May 20. The budget appropriates $8.6 billion over a two-year period beginning July 1, and includes $408 million in property tax relief, one of the governor’s priorities for this legislative session.
The budget process began in January when Governor Ricketts issued his budget recommendations to the Legislature. The budget was then crafted over the better part of the 90-day session, beginning in the Appropriations Committee headed by Senator Health Mello. During that process, the Appropriations Committee reviewed budget requests for 78 state agencies, including the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services. This year the Appropriations Committee priorities included fully funding state aid to school districts, adding correctional security and behavioral health staff, as well as funding increases for the University of Nebraska, state colleges and community colleges.
Despite all the competing priorities, Senator Mello and others on the Appropriations Committee (Senators Bolz, Haar, Hilkemann, Kintner, Kuehn, Nordquist, Stinner and Watermeier) still found a way to improve funding for early childhood education in Nebraska. The budget stabilized future funding for Sixpence, Nebraska’s birth to age 3 early learning fund. Previously, $1 million in Sixpence funding was scheduled to sunset in 2016. The budget also increased funding for incentives and bonuses in the child care quality rating improvement system known as Step Up to Quality.
Thank you Governor Ricketts and Nebraska senators for a fiscally responsible budget that will help close the achievement gap in Nebraska.