Pillen's first State of the State promises budget limits and educational funding
By Alex Whitney,
January has been a month of firsts for Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen.
He served his first day in office, addressed the legislature for the first time, and, on Wednesday, delivered his vision for Nebraska in his first State of the State address.
“That’s the strength of Nebraska and that is my focus everyday people, not politics. Because of our people, the state of our state has never, ever been stronger,” said Gov. Pillen.
While it was his first State of the State address the topics discussed by Gov. Pillen should be familiar to any Nebraskan who has been paying attention to state politics over the last year.
Pillen, like his predecessor Pete Ricketts, had property tax relief, education funding reforms, and limiting state spending as his top priorities.
“Today, I'm introducing a budget that restricts the growth of state spending to an annual average of 1.3% in the next biennium,” said Pillen.
His proposed education reforms will likely see stiff opposition in the legislature this year.
The cornerstone of his education plan is a $1 billion Education Future Fund, which he hopes will cover the gaps in equalization aid left by the TEEOSA formula (The Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act), which determines school funding.
Pillen’s budget also includes tens of millions of dollars for scholarships for students pursuing higher education and to recruit trained professionals to come to Nebraska.
But funding public schools is just one part of his plan, Pillen also wants to see 'school choice' programs implemented.
These programs, whether through tax vouchers, tax credits, or grant programs, divert taxpayer dollars to parents who want to send their kids to private schools.
“I think it's incredibly misguided that the governor has trotted out a $50 million price tag to move public funds to private religious schools,” said Sen. Danielle Conrad from District 46.
The university system won’t be receiving the same support, however.
Like most of the state offices, Pillen is limiting the universities' budget growth to 2% — a limit that critics argue could make NU more expensive for prospective students.
“Every dollar that the state doesn’t send to our universities or colleges means more pressure on tuition,” said Conrad.
Another focus from Pillen was commitments to infrastructure improvements passed in previous sessions, especially the Perkins County Canal project as well as a new prison.
Altogether the budget is an interesting collection of cutbacks for state offices and huge spending proposals for statewide projects that will likely test Pillen’s ability to work with lawmakers in his first year as governor.
“This budget is very very doable. I always like to say when I have confidence in something, I'll be the farm on it,” said Pillen.
Nebraska healthcare providers responded to Pillen's budget proposals:
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