LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers sweated over the state budget and the governor's tax cut plan Friday but adjourned without deciding about either.
Most of the day was spent on whether to take $10 million from the state's cash reserve fund to boost special education funding for schools.
The transfer won just enough support to be included in the budget bills.
A separate vote will be needed — most likely Monday — to direct the transferred funds for special education.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk proposed the move as part of a package aimed at winning approval for a trimmed-down version of Gov. Dave Heineman's tax cut plan.
Other parts of the package would reclaim unused state funds to balance out the $8.9 million first-year cost of the cuts.
"This is a very big Rubik's Cube that we as a Legislature have to figure out," Flood said.
He said the special education proposal was not intended to win votes for the tax cuts but to respond to the funding needs of K-12 schools.
"I don't think it brought any more supporters or any less supporters" for tax cuts, he said.
Longtime lobbyist Walt Radcliffe described the funds as a "trade-off."
"How can you say there's money to do tax cuts and no money to do school aid?" he asked.
Education groups had started the session with a push to increase state school aid. Their hopes were dashed as the state's budget situation became clearer.
As advanced from first-round debate, the state budget and claims bills leave only $15.1 million for other spending or tax-cut proposals.
Evidence of a trade-off was difficult to discern from the vote on making the $10 million transfer. The 25 who voted for the transfer included some who have expressed concern about the tax cuts and some who have stated their support for the cuts.
Senators voting in opposition, likewise, included some who typically support school funding and some who prefer to restrain state spending.
Sen. Greg Adams of York, the Education Committee chairman, backed the special education proposal, saying it would help schools without having to go through the difficulties of changing the state school aid formula.
But he continued to express skepticism about the tax cut plan that emerged earlier this week from the Revenue Committee.
Adams was one of three Revenue Committee members who voted against the plan, which would cost about $8.9 million in the next fiscal year, $44 million during 2013-14 and $95 million by 2014-15.
Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton, like all other members of the Appropriations Committee, voted against the special education funding. Yet he said he supports the tax cut proposal.
Opponents of the cuts point to projections that the proposal would push the budget shortfall to $600 million during the budget biennium beginning July 1, 2013.
Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha raised concerns about taking money from the cash reserve when the state faces that big of a shortfall and going on to exacerbate the shortfall by reducing state revenues.
"Let's not get ourselves into the troubles that other states have," he said.
Flood's other proposals would ease fiscal worries for the first year of the tax cuts by making offsetting cuts in the state budget.
Flood would take $4 million from Medicaid, $1.8 million from behavioral health and $3.2 million from expired programs.
The funds had been budgeted but are unneeded, according to the administration.
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