After late nights and long days, Nebraska lawmakers have given first approval to a balanced budget. But in the process, they grounded a request from Gov. Dave Heineman to purchase an airplane for his use.
Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton led the charge to drop the $2.2 million plane purchase. Gov. Heineman had said he needed the plane to travel the state and carry out his duties. Senators didn't disagree, but balked at plans to purchased the plane from the University of Nebraska Foundation.
Dubas proposed an amendment to instead conduct a study to determine the best way to provide plane service, whether that be rental, lease, time-share, or purchase. Her amendment failed at the eleventh hour on Thursday night.
But Friday, Sen. Ernie Chambers requested a new vote, and that amendment passed.
Aside from that one controversy, lawmakers were in agreement on the $7.8 billion budget.
"I support the budget in its entirety. I think the Appropriations Committee worked hard and I think it's good budget for the State of Nebraska," Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney said.
Sen. Les Seiler said they received $120 million in requests for new spending, with only $20 million to spend.
Sen. Mike Gloor said that was understandable.
"There've been pent up demands for things we need to look at, people who tightened their belts on behalf of state taxpayers," Gloor said.
But Gloor said it was important to build the state's "rainy day fund" back up, while giving an increase in education funding.
Seiler said schools, community colleges, and universities are important.
"They constitute 41 percent of the budget. That's right up there with a major accomplishment," he said.
Hadley said, "We're trying to help all schools in the state and get an increase over $900 million it's a good deal."
Gloor said the increase for schools is justifiable.
He said, "People forget my second year here we were in such a level of budget crisis with decreasing revenue we had a special session."
The package of budget bills passed the first round of voting on Friday. Bills must be passed on three separate occasions before going to the governor.
One big ticket item was included in this budget -- money for the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home.
Now, Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, and North Platte will have until June 1 to make their proposals.