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NEBRASKA

Nebraska

State Recovery Act Website: http://www.recovery.nebraska.gov/

Nebraska's state Recovery Act website scored 25 out of 100 possible points (ranking a tied 23rd) on Good Jobs First's 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus. The state earned fewer points than average by failing to disclose contractor information, allocations by county, or any job creation data. Contractor information: none.

Nebraska scored more points-60 out of 100 (ranking 4th)-on its disclosure of information specifically about highway projects funded by the Recovery Act.  The state's Department of Roads website discloses county allocations, project descriptions and costs, contract awardees, and job creation information. Contractor information: here.

For detailed scoring information, see the Nebraska appendix of Show Us the Stimulus.

Coordination & Oversight

In February Gov. Dave Heineman named State Budget Administrator Gerry Oligmueller to coordinate the receipt and expenditure of stimulus funding.

Policy Debates

When the recovery website was first launched in early March several Democratic legislators criticized the Republican Gov. Heineman for using it mainly for political rather than transparency purposes.

Heineman did not join other Republican governors in criticizing the stimulus plan as a whole, but he kept saying there was uncertainty about how the stimulus money could be used. Then he expressed concern about the long-term impact of accepting the funding for improving unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, some legislators said they were worried that stimulus funds for education would be spent inappropriately. Sen. Danielle Nantkes of Lincoln warned about "playing Santa Claus with federal stimulus" funds by trying to replace state school obligations with federal support. Most school officials welcomed the influx of about $375 million (including $234 million from the fiscal stabilization fund) but there was a wide range of opinions on how to use the money. Nebraska has more flexibility in the use of the funds because it had not planned to cut education aid. Gov. Heineman came out in support of the idea of using the $234 million as general aid to public schools, replacing $100 million that would have come from the state system.

In late March the legislature's Appropriations Committee held a public hearing during which more than 20 speakers offered a wide range of proposals for using stimulus funds.

In early April a local housing agency in North Platte turned down $588,000 in federal stimulus funds that could have been used to renovate public housing in the west-central Nebraska city. "We didn't want to spend taxpayer dollars just because it was available to spend," said Ed Rieker, board chairman of the North Platte Housing Authority. "We have a board that's very fiscally conservative."

Federal stimulus money for energy efficiency was used to create a program called Cleaner Greener Lincoln. Milo Mumgaard was hired by the mayor to run the program.

In mid-April State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha criticized the governor for refusing to seek introduction of a bill to accept federal funds for expanded unemployment benefits. In May the legislature passed a two-year budget as well as an education bill that curbs the growth of state aid while adjusting the formula so that the increases that do occur over the next two years match the additional funds coming through the Recovery Act.

Last updated on: 14 October, 2009

Quick Facts

Population:
1,783,432

Median Household Income:
$47,085

Unemployment Rate:
5.0%

Poverty Rate:
11.2%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$1.2 billion

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