This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states’ revenue and budgets during the pandemic.
Before the pandemic hit, Nebraska officials had ambitious plans for the state’s roughly $5 billion annual budget, including adding $300 million to the state’s cash reserves.
Then came the revenue dropoffs this spring. But by late July, lawmakers were surprised and relieved to see that reduction was not as large as some had anticipated.
State Sen. John Stinner, chair of the Appropriations Committee, had at one point anticipated a revenue reduction on the order of $250 million. But now, Stinner says, Nebraska will only have about $50 million less to spend than projected before the pandemic. That’s nothing close to the kind of dropoff seen in some other states.
Following a revised financial forecast, lawmakers passed budget adjustments that actually increased the biennial budget slightly, with the largest increase, $55 million, to help pay costs incurred from devastating flooding last year. That revised spending plan is waiting for Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ signature.
Ultimately, Stinner says, the state needs to be cautious about future spending given the unpredictability of the coronavirus spread. Cases have been growing in Nebraska.