After conservative pushback, Unicameral narrowly advances $1 billion in spending using federal funds

'I'd like to see firmer lids and hard caps on administrative costs'
Posted at 6:54 PM, Mar 28, 2022

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — A bill that spends over $1 billion in federal funds advanced narrowly in the Nebraska Legislature Monday after some conservative senators switched their votes from the first vote.

Conservative senators were upset about a tax bill and the massive spending in the bill that spends money from the American Rescue Plan given to Nebraska by the federal government.

“My attitude has changed. You see, to move this state forward we have to work together,” said Sen. Tom Briese, who represents rural areas in northeastern and central Nebraska.

Debate started with a threat from Briese to get 33 senators to agree on a massive tax reform package that fell one vote short last week, or he — and maybe others — won’t support the budget with $1 billion in ARPA funds.

“As far as I’m concerned, ARPA and the budget are tied to tax relief and I won’t be voting to advance the ARPA bill or the budget bill until we have an agreement to move the tax package,” said Briese.

The ARPA bill ultimately broke the filibuster by one vote and received 33 votes to advance to the Final Reading.

The tax package would lower the Nebraska income tax rate, phase out social security taxes by 2025 and increase tax credits to those that pay property taxes to public schools and community colleges. The status of that bill remains unclear.

The preliminary plan for the ARPA money to be spent on dozens of proposals including revitalizing North and South Omaha, expanding a police training center, food assistance and major economic development projects.

Conservative senators found areas in the bill that they believed weren’t needed. That includes money for community college buildings and dual credit courses. That funding was eventually included.

“Any funding that is going to go on and on and on for years to come is about helping people through the COVID transition. Not about helping them in other ways,” said Sen. Joni Albrecht.

Some senators called for cost controls.

“I'd like to see firmer lids and hard caps on administrative costs,” said Sen. Julie Slama.

The Legislature did add an amendment to the bill that limits administrative costs.

Senators said they were trying to work towards a compromise to ensure they can pass the budget and spend the federal money, but one Lincoln state senator, Matt Hansen, said he’s fine with simply going home.

“I’m just warning you. The wheels are starting to come off this session. If somebody wants to throw up an adjourn Sine Die motion, I might very well vote for it,” said Hansen.

Monday morning advanced bills that require the state to fund unfunded mandates to local governments, and another that requires public schools to have a behavioral health point of contact.

As for Tuesday, the Unicameral will get back to the budget.

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