Officials: Run state like business
The state of Nebraska needs to begin being run like a business, Nebraska State Treasurer Lorelee Byrd and Sen. Tom Baker said during this morning's call to the McCook Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Affairs committee.
Today's was the first call of the special Legislative Session to discuss the state budget and state spending.
"I have been working on a number of projects and ideas on how Nebraska can get lean and mean. We say we want to run the government like a business on one side of the mouth. The fact is we don't do that," said Byrd.
Baker was called to Lincoln along with other Nebraska legislators by Gov. Mike Johanns for a special session to address Nebraska's revenue deficit.
As part of Johann's proposed plan that cuts state spending by $342.2 million over the next three years, the University of Nebraska, the state Medicaid program and other state agencies would experience cuts.
As far as Medicaid cuts are concerned, said Baker, "We are not taking it away from anyone who needs it." The proposal is to change the 12-month eligibility period to a six-month eligibility period, which would save the state $8.25 million, he said.
The second proposal is to change the 20 percent earnings disregard in order to lower the income level for participants of the Kids Connection Program. "That will get somewhere around 3,800 children whose parents are making $60,000 or more off the program," Baker said.
"I don't think anyone in your area would consider someone making $60,000 a year in the poverty level," Byrd said.
The cuts in the university system are not actual cuts, Baker told a group of five McCook residents. "What we're doing is taking a 7 percent increase back. They're not taking a cut we're just going to make them work with a flat budget like other state agencies."
"I have told the university that they are able to take our young people into their classrooms and teach them the basics of running a business and they are now even doing what they teach," Byrd said.
Baker said he has concerns over the Economic Forecasting Board's projections for the future, which is predicting a 4.7 percent growth in revenues.
"Our revenue last year was lower than the year before and the revenue that year was lower than the year before that. I don't believe (a 4.7 percent increase) is going to happen," Baker said.
Byrd agreed. " I'm not seeing any improvement in any sector of our revenue stream. The cash flow of the state will become a real issue in six to nine months," she predicted. Byrd said she plans to continue to press for conservative spending in state spending as well as other governmental agencies.
"Even if the projections turned around tomorrow and we had all the money we needed in the state coffers, I would be the first one to stand up and say we need to trim government. "We should continue looking at ways for the municipalities, counties and state governments to combine services and cut administrative costs," she said.