Nebraska Lawmakers Must Plan Around Uncertainty in Washington
Nebraska’s 2017 budget process proved contentious at times, but if the debate around the budget in Washington is any indication of the future, then Nebraska will need to brace itself for more uncertainty.
Platte Institute Policy Director Sarah Curry testified to the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations committee in favor of Legislative Bill 611, which would create a federal funds inventory. This would require state agencies to report how much of their funding comes from the federal government and how it is given out. Further, plans will be made to account for 10-to-25 percent cuts in federal funding to Nebraska.
This bill allows Nebraska to foresee problems of federal budgetary cuts and create contingency plans. While federal funding can enable policymakers to launch new programs, reliance on federal funding can be an Achilles heel.
Nationally, 31 percent of state budgets come from federal funds. Six Nebraska departments have budgets that contain 50 percent or more of federal funds, including the state Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services. This makes Nebraska vulnerable if a budget cut occurs. While Nebraska is fortunate to be fiscally sound compared to other states, it should be a wake-up call that our policymakers do not have complete information about federal funding. The state must know where the money is coming from and how it is used if we continue to rely on these funds.
LB611 allows for Nebraska to know how it uses federal funds, and then make plans if a cut occurs. A federal funds inventory would enable the Nebraska Legislature to follow the sage wisdom of the Boy Scouts’ motto: “Be Prepared.”
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