Deep cuts proposed at the Capitol

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December 17th, 2010

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Lincoln, NE – Significant spending cuts in education and health, and reductions in everything from courts to economic development, are among options being put forward by legislative committees. (Click here to see the full report).

The lists are the result of a legislative resolution that asked committees how the state budget could be cut by 10 percent. Most of that budget goes to education and Health and Human Services, so that’s where the bulk of the possible cuts come from. They include a $49 million reduction, roughly 10 percent, in state funds going to the University of Nebraska. President J.B. Milliken said the state should continue to invest in the University.

“I would hate to see us take major steps retrenching at a time when we have such momentum: the highest enrollment we’ve had in 17 years, the highest research levels we’ve had in our history, developing Innovation Campus, moving to the Big Ten – a lot of things that are very, very positive for the state of Nebraska that involve the University.”

The Education Committee also listed a potential $146 million reduction, about 15 percent, in state aid to schools. But committee chairman Senator Greg Adams of York said the cut may have to be even larger. And he said cuts in the state aid program, known as TEEOSA, may have a ripple effect at the local level.

“Anytime that we make a cut, whether it’s TEEOSA or community colleges or county aid or anything else, there’s potential for pressure on property tax, no question.”

The Judiciary Committee listed options including returning the cost of county courts to the counties, which would save the state $17 million but put further pressure on property taxes. Banking, Commerce and Insurance included in its list eliminating out-of-state tourism advertising. In health and human services, the options form a long list, including closing the Hastings Regional Center, significantly downsized in recent years and now home to a juvenile chemical dependency program. Services like help with chores to let elderly and disabled people stay in their homes would be would also be cut. And a hotline would be abolished that was established to help families in crisis after dozens of children were dropped off at hospitals under the state’s former safe haven law. Lincoln Senator Amanda McGill, instrumental in setting up the hotline, criticized that and other options.

“I haven’t looked over the entire list yet but I’ve heard about a lot of the things on there that make many of us feel ill … at the thought of eliminating some of these things. I look forward to the debate that will come forward from that as we pick and choose what things are realistic and practical and which would just hurt our state.”

That debate will begin after the legislature convenes January 5th.

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