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The Economy In Nebraska Fares Better Than Other States During COVID-19

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Updated at 11:37 a.m. ET Saturday

This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysisof states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic hit, Nebraska officials had ambitious plans for the state's roughly $5 billion annual budget, including adding $300 million to the state's cash reserves.

Then came the revenue dropoffs this spring, accentuated by the state's decision to follow the federal government in delaying the income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, transferring some expected receipts to the next fiscal year. Nevertheless, by late July lawmakers were surprised and relieved to see that the revenue reduction was not as large as some had anticipated.

State Sen. John Stinner, chair of the Appropriations Committee, at one point anticipated a revenue reduction on the order of $250 million. But after the forecasts were revised, Stinner said Nebraska would have only about $50 million less to spend than projected before the pandemic. That's nothing close to the kind of dropoff seen in other states.

Following the revised financial forecast, lawmakers passed budget adjustments that actually increased the biennial budget slightly. The largest increase, $55 million, set aside to help pay costs incurred from devastating flooding last year. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the budget, without exercising any of his line-item veto power.

Still, Stinner says, the state needs to be cautious about future spending, given the unpredictability of the coronavirus spread. Cases have been growing in Nebraska.

Fred Knapp is a reporter/producer for NET News — Nebraska Public Radio and Television.

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Copyright 2020 Nebraska Public Media

Fred Knapp