Legislature approves budget package, delivers bills to governor

Legislature approves budget package, delivers bills to governor

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The Nebraska Legislature on May 9 gave final approval to the state budget package for 2017-19, including funding for the University of Nebraska system.

Legislators approved the mainline budget bill by a 36-12 vote. The budget package has been delivered to Gov. Pete Ricketts for his consideration; he has until midnight May 15 to sign the bills in the package or return them with vetoes.

Under the budget approved by the Legislature, the university system's state funding would be reduced by $13 million over the biennium. This follows the $13 million reduction the university took in the current fiscal year. When rising costs such as health care, collective bargaining contracts and compensation increases are factored in, the university would need to close a budget gap of about $46 million by summer 2019.

Hank Bounds, president of the four-institution university system, noted that the university system took steps last fall to limit spending across the campuses, including slowing hiring and other expenditures. Additionally, in January Bounds and the chancellors began a systemwide process for finding reductions in a range of operational areas.

Those proactive steps will help the university system manage cuts in state funding, although Bounds said there is no question that closing the budget gap will require difficult decisions.

“The Legislature has sent a strong message of support for the budget developed by Chairman Stinner and the Appropriations Committee,” Bounds said. “Senators have made difficult decisions to manage the current fiscal challenges and I thank them for their leadership. We will be a good partner to the state and we are prepared to manage the cuts that the Legislature approved. We have been candid about the fact that we will not be able to close the gap without making difficult reductions and increasing tuition."

Bounds, the chancellors and their leadership teams, and members of the Board of Regents are continuing to work closely together on budget planning. The board will set the university’s 2017-18 operating budget, including tuition rates, when it meets in June.

“We are navigating a challenging period, but I am convinced that there have never been greater opportunities for the state, its public university and the private sector to work together to grow Nebraska’s economy. I’m excited about joining with our partners to build a strong future for this state," Bounds said.