January  2005      Vol. 14, No. 1  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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Nebraska's Legislative Regular Session Begins

BY JEFF REYNOLDS, RURAL ENTERPRISE ASSISTANCE PROJECT (REAP) PROGRAM DIRECTOR

The Regular Session for the Nebraska Legislature is right around the corner. This will be a budget session with the Legislature setting a budget for the next two-year cycle. The session will begin on January 5, 2005 and conclude in mid-May to early June.

Nebraska and the majority of the other states have faced unprecedented budget problems the past four years. Nebraska’s current financial situation has improved in recent months, but increasing costs of programs like Medicaid and other obligations, including the $140.5 million low-level nuclear waste site settlement will eat away at any recent revenue gains.

The forecasting board meets three times per year and uses economic and other data to predict tax revenue the state can expect. According to new projections set by the Economic Forecasting Advisory Board in October, state tax revenues will grow about 4 percent a year over the next three years, and state tax revenues are expected to top $3 billion in the 2006-07 fiscal year.

Not Out of the Woods Yet
Although the state’s revenues have improved, the state is definitely not “out of the woods” yet as the increasing costs and obligations indicate. Governor Mike Johanns will release his budget in early January. The Legislature uses the Governor’s plan as a blueprint in formulating their proposal.

Governor Johanns, pending confirmation, will be the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Lt. Governor Dave Heineman will be Nebraska’s new Governor upon Johann’s confirmation. Anticipation is that Johanns will still be Nebraska’s Governor when the Governor’s budget plan is released in early January.

Micro Funding Pays Dividends
The Nebraska Microenterprise Development Act funds have taken a pounding in recent years. Previous state budget cuts have slashed over half of this funding and currently are budgeted at $247,500 for the 2005 appropriation.

Nebraska-based programs use these funds to provide loans, training, and technical assistance services to business with five or fewer employees. This represents the overall majority of Nebraska’s businesses.

This funding has paid major dividends for economic development efforts in Nebraska. Please see http://crd.neded.org/micro_annual.html to check out the latest data and statistics on the significant impacts of this funding as documented in the Nebraska Microenterprise Development Act Report to the Legislature.

REAP collaborates with many other individuals and organizations and is a member of the Nebraska Enterprise Opportunity Network (NEON). NEON is the trade association in Nebraska for microenterprise programs and offers policy and training opportunities for microenterprise programs and practitioners. A complete listing of microenterprise service providers in Nebraska can be found at http://neon.neded.org 

Micro Funding Is Critical to Rural Nebraska
Demand for business development services far outweighs the capacity that is currently available in Nebraska. The Nebraska Microenterprise Development Act funds are critical to maintaining adequate services and continuing successful startup of businesses and expansion of existing business in Nebraska. These funds are a potent, cost effective, economy-growing tool that must be used to their fullest in these uncertain times.

By working together we can keep these vital funds in place – funds that have had such a tremendous impact in Nebraska. Microenterprise development is a core service in Nebraska and a service that must carry on and continue to grow.

Legislative Timeline
January 5 - 2005 session of Unicameral convenes
January 10 - Deadline for Legislative Bill introduction
Mid January, Governor offers his budget proposal
Late February - Economic Forecasting Board meets and determines new revenue forecast, which becomes the official revenue estimate for any 2005 legislative budget action
Early-March - Appropriations Committee makes tentative recommendations, followed by public hearing for each agency.
Late April to early May - Appropriations Committee gives final budget recommendation to full Legislature
Mid May to early June - Legislature votes on budget; Governor decides to veto or sign budget bills.

 Contact: Jeff Reynolds, REAP Program Director, 402.656.3091 or jeffr@alltel.net .
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