The Grand Island Independent Saturday Poll regarding whether to increase taxes or cut spending to make up the shortfall in the state budget left me scratching my head...or it might just be a case of early winter dry scalp (around 2 inches of white stuff on the deck this morning). With Governor Heineman opening the Stimulus floodgates and all the wondrous things it will do at "no cost" to Nebraskans...why not use a portion of the $331,945,863 sitting in the state's reserve to make up the state budget shortfall? $100 million off the top would ease the pain.
Spending down the reserve is not my first choice...as I am a firm believer in cutting budget extravagances. Like most...I find it hard to accept "spend and tax" when most Nebraskans have to cut back at home in order to pay more taxes and "fees" to our government(s) every time we turn around. State projections show that the State of Nebraska will maintain about 300 million in the reserve through 2013 after this year...of course these projections are moot if the economy continues to tank. The reserve fund was created in 1983 specifically for balancing budget shortfalls...the money is there...use it. No "what if's"...pet projects...or speculation of how much Kansas is going to sue us for because their rivers...like ours...went through a 7-year drought (they will have to settle for an easy payment plan). Use the money and use it for the purpose it was intended...then we can be broke just like the rest of the nation.
In regard to the Governor's endorsement (re-election coming) to provide Nebraska teachers with a sizable pay raise using Stimulus funds...I say present it as two year "award"...then revert back to the "pre-Stimulus" pay scale rather than increase taxes to make up the difference after the Stimulus money pit runs dry after the second year. The way I view it...something is better than nothing...and the teachers...if they are socially just (a term Catholic priests use to make the rest of us Catholics feel guilty) will see it that way too. When times are tough we all have to "bite the bullet." Many in Nebraska are not receiving a sizable pay raise and their pay is just as lousy in many cases. In addition...many Nebraskans (over 16,000) have lost jobs...DeWitt and Cozad for example...with more likely on the near horizon.
There are still experts projecting that our economic roller coaster ride is going to stretch out for another ten years...and we know that the recent stimulus boost is going to lead to increased taxation on the fed side that we and our grandchildren's grandchildren will be paying back for the rest of their lives. Nebraska's population is too small to provide "everything for everybody" and we need to pay particularly close attention when spending our tax dollars. Frugality is in order and our city..county...state and federal leaders need to get in the game...quickly.
Oh...159 out of 175 respondents were in favor of cuts by noon Saturday