How much money does the State of Nebraska have to spend this year.

Gov. Jim Pillen says its more, much more, than anyone ever expected.

[View our look inside the big budget numbers above]

And Pillen's ready to spend, although he calls it investing.

And its those investments that find plenty of critics.

[Check back for a complete transcript]


Gov. Jim Pillen, Nebraska (R):  “Like many of our neighboring states, we have more money in our coffers than anyone can believe, or quite frankly comprehend. There’s bushel baskets of it.”

Bolstered by some $24 billion in federal Covid cash funds pouring into Nebraska, Gov. Jim Pillen says its time to cut taxes, give the people what they want, but not all the people.

Pillen: “We must have the courage to say no."

Reporter: “What are some of the budget requests you said no too?”

Pillen: “I said no to so many, they just all kind of meshed together.”

But his just say no, finds plenty of complaints.

Health care providers insist the budget “Jeopardizes the care that rural Nebraskans…have access to.” (Nebraska Health Care and Human Service Providers)

Nebraska Appleseed: “Instead of another round of tax cuts…we should focus on adopting tax policies like the Child Tax Credit, a proven and powerful way to reduce child poverty.”

But Pillen is spending, with plenty going where it hasn’t gone before, including private schools.

Pillen: “I am recommending a $50 million investment for scholarships for Nebraska kids whose needs are best met outside of public education.”

And that finds the Nebraska Democratic Party firing back that Pillen, “Is waging a war against the LGBTQ community, women, public schools and the environment.”

Pillen Ad: “We should never ever give up on a kid…”

During his campaign for governor, Pillen’s ads talked up the need for major changes in school funding…during unscripted interviews he went even further.

Pillen: We have to change school funding, the TEEOSA formula is outdated we have to I like to say, cherry bomb into it.

But it now appears Pillen will leave the school funding formula as is, at the same time though schools have long worried about major funding changes, often insisting that when it comes to spending don’t blame them.

Dave Welsch: NE Association of School Boards (Legislative Hearing January 2022): “According to an analysis based on data from the US Census Bureau of School and State Spending, from 2012 to 2020, state spending has increased by 3.17 percent on average per year, while schools cumulative spending has increased by 3 percent.”

And guess what? Pillen’s latest plan would allow schools to increase spending by 3 percent, any more would require a supermajority school board vote or a vote of the people.

As for Pillen’s big spending plans, he calls them investments, critics can only wonder.

Craig Beck, Open Sky Policy Institute: “We drew down our reserve during the Great Recession and we were lucky to have a robust reserve going into the Recession. We didn’t really have to tap into our reserve during the pandemic largely because of the federal stimulus but that is not to say that we will receive federal aid during future economic downturns. It is very important that we keep the reserve as robust as possible.”

Pillen: “This budget is very doable. I like to say when I have confidence in something, I’d bet the farm on it.”