The Nebraska Constitution requires the Legislature to do only two things: meet on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January, and pass a budget once every two years. Technically, the Legislature only has to pass this package of budget bills and nothing else. Legislatures are two years long. Much of the first session following the election is devoted to the budget. As I write this, we are in the middle of that debate right now.
The proposed budget for the State of Nebraska’s 2021–22 fiscal year is more than $4.7 billion. It is broken into three broad groups of expenses. Operating the various agencies of state government costs about $1.6 billion. The largest expense in this category is the university system at almost $700 million. This category of spending is 2.2% more than the last budget.
State aid to individuals is the second category, costing almost $1.5 billion. Medicaid is the largest expense in this category at almost $1 billion. This category of spending is 0.6% more than the last budget. Nebraska has one of the most generous welfare systems in the country.
State aid to local governments is the third category. The TEEOSA formula (how the Legislature funds K–12 schools) is a little more than $1 billion. This category of spending has decreased 3.3% compared to the last budget.
Lastly we are going to spend about $40 million on construction in the Capitol building to convert the 1930s steam heat system to a modern geothermal HVAC heating and cooling system. This work is progressing on schedule and the contractors are doing a quality job that does justice to our historic state Capitol building.