New budget tool makes sense, deserves support

The Legislature’s Planning Committee is promoting a budget tool that makes a lot of sense. As outlined in LB713, the Legislature’s fiscal office would be required to create a revenue volatility report and a budget stress test as well as a long-term budget for major programs every four years.

Here’s the problem. Budgets are limited by the two years of the term that constitutes a legislative session. That means agencies and other entities which depend on state general funds have to ask the Legislature for the money every two years because the funds can’t be obligated beyond those two years.

When I was the head of a statewide non-profit that relied on state matching funds, we had to make our case every two years. Casting a longrange vision beyond that was hampered by not knowing if sustainable funding was possible. Based on that personal experience alone, I am convinced that this proposal to require the Legislature to analyze long-term fiscal sustainability is a good step.

There’s nothing wrong with having to make the case. In fact, it can help to hone the focus of agencies and groups. But it makes long-range planning very difficult.

 

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