State Fiscal Briefs

September 2022

Nebraska’s budget basics

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Nebraska’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2021 were $15.1 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2021 were $2.7 trillion, ranging from $4.7 billion in Wyoming to $512.8 billion in California.

Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.

Per the US Census Bureau, Nebraska’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $19.1 billion in FY 2020 (the most recent year census data were available), or $9,752 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $10,540.

Nebraska’s largest spending areas per capita were elementary and secondary education ($2,473) and public welfare ($1,495). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.

Nebraska’s combined state and local general revenues were $21.0 billion in FY 2020, or $10,682 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $10,933. Nebraska uses all major state and local taxes. After federal transfers, Nebraska’s largest sources of per capita revenue were property taxes ($2,088) and charges ($1,676), such as state university tuition and highway tolls.

Nebraska’s politics

Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican, was elected in 2018 with 59 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2022.

Nebraska has a divided government. Nebraska is the only state with a unicameral legislature. While referred to as the “legislature,” the state Senate is the legislative body that remained after a 1937 reorganization created the unicameral structure. Republians control Nebraska’s Senate with a veto-proof majority (32 Republians to 17 Democrats). Members of the Senate serve four-year terms; roughly half the Senate seats are up for election in 2022, and the other half are up for election in 2024.

Nebraska’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints

Nebraska uses a biennial budget. The legislature is not required to pass a balanced budget, nor is the governor required to sign one, and deficits may be carried over into the following year. However, the state has budget rules that require lawmakers to balance revenues and expenditures. There are no further tax and expenditure limits in Nebraska, but there are limits on total authorized debt and debt service incurred by the state.

(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)

Nebraska’s current budget

Governor Ricketts released his FY 2023 supplemental budget proposal (the state uses a biennial budget) and gave his state of the state address in January 2022. The FY 2023 supplemental budget was enacted in April 2022.

Nebraska enacted its FY 2022-2023 biennial budget in April 2021. The enacted budget included total spending of $12.6 billion in FY 2022 and $12.6 billion in FY 2023, and general fund spending of $4.8 billion FY 2022 and $5 billion in FY 2023. According to the governor, as part of the budget, Nebraska also enacted some significant property tax reduction programs and lowered its corporate income tax rate from 7.81 percent to 7.25 percent.

Under the American Rescue Plan, Nebraska will receive $1 billion in direct state fiscal aid and $552 million in local government aid from the federal government. As of January 2022, Nebraska had not yet reported how it plans to spend its state ARP funds.

According to NASBO, Nebraska’s recent expenditure totals (general fund spending/total spending, including federal transfers) were:

  • FY 2022: $4.5 billion

  • FY 2021: $4.5 billion/$15.1 billion

  • FY 2020: $4.5 billion/$12.9 billion

  • FY 2019: $4.4 billion/$12.1 billion

For more on Nebraska’s budget, see