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Nebraska Legislature: 2018 Early Childhood Policy Highlights

The second session of the 105th Legislature adjourned sine die on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Senators introduced 481 new bills this session. With only 60 working days, lawmakers had two priorities: pass a mid-biennium budget package to balance a budget deficit of $173 million and advance a comprehensive property tax relief plan. Unfortunately, legislators were unable to reach a consensus on property tax relief and will have to work over the summer to find a compromise instead.

Given Governor Ricketts’ plans to introduce across-the-board cuts to agency programs to balance the budget, First Five Nebraska chose not to introduce new legislation this session. Instead, we focused on defending Nebraska’s current investments in high-quality early childhood programs. Despite our efforts to shield these investments, as well as higher-than-anticipated revenue projections, early childhood programs sustained a 2% cut for FY2018-2019 and a 4% cut for FY2019-2020, translating to a loss of $527,000 in funding across both fiscal years.

Although we understand the need for fiscal responsibility in the current budget environment, we regret lawmakers’ decision to cut our public commitment to quality early care and learning when these investments can reduce expenditures on other publicly funded systems downstream. The savings realized by these cuts are minimal compared to the potential long-term costs of inadequate learning experiences during children’s earliest years. It is important we remain focused on the continued development of Nebraska’s citizens, communities and economy.

Every year, First Five Nebraska identifies new legislation with the potential to impact quality early learning in our state. The complete “Legislation to Watch” list for the 2018 session, along with testimony and letters for the record, are listed on our website under Public Policy and Legislation.

The conclusion of the 2018 legislative session marks the departure of eight Senators from the Unicameral. First Five Nebraska thanks Senators Roy Baker (District 30), Lydia Brasch (District 16), Burke Harr (District 8), Bob Krist (District 10), John Kuehn (District 38), Paul Schumacher (District 22), Jim Smith (District 14) and Tyson Larson (District 40) for their distinguished service. As always, First Five Nebraska will continue to promote well-designed, fiscally responsible policies to support the lifelong success of our state’s youngest children.

Elizabeth Everett
Policy Associate
First Five Nebraska
eeverett@FirstFiveNebraska.org

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