NTF Worksheet: Legwatch16. 9-16.
NEBRASKA TAXPAYERS FOR FREEDOM WORKSHEET:
SUGGESTIONS FOR CUTTING THE NEBRASKA STATE BUDGET: FY 2016-17.
State senators in the 2017 Session face a looming $113.7 million ongoing deficit with an ending balance below the minimum 3% reserves, because revenues from sales, income, and other taxes will not cover projected state spending, much of it on automatic pilot in future years. Senators mismanaged and inflated previous budgets, causing this deficit. They accrued a surplus of revenue in the ‘90s but since have spent recklessly. Average revenue growth for the next biennium will not close the imbalance that remains, and the depleted Cash Reserve is meant only for emergencies. In FY 2016-17, revenue growth appears at 4.1%, below the historic 5.2% average, and actual revenue receipts for fiscal years often fall below forecast. This adjusted growth is the lowest in many years in which the state calculated adjusted growth rates. This ongoing gap, despite general fund net revenue projected growth in the next biennium of 4.4% in the budget. Inundated by expensive propaganda, voters in Nov. 2006 unfortunately voted down Initiative 423, a limit on spending. Only fundamentally restructuring state government to curtail spending growth will restore accountability. Unfortunately, during our research we found many documents were unavailable to view on the State Spending.Nebraska.gov website, intentionally or unintentionally. We have compiled an expanding list to show senators where to cut state spending without raising taxes. Lobby your state senator with these suggestions:
Budgets should rise not because of higher costs but only to fund better results of program spending.
Remove all funded programs from annual autopilot formula spending increases.
Account for all unfunded liabilities to taxpayers in the budget.
Stop all advance appropriations, a loophole that encourages spending by making it appear free now.
Allow governor to stop all other legislative business and force legislators to adopt solutions to a fiscal emergency.
Set a sunset date of 8 years for all spending laws and programs not mandated by the Nebraska Constitution. Such would force legislators to debate extending a program and to vote either way on programs that have failed.
Freeze legislative expenditures for 1 budget cycle. Legislative spending then could not exceed anticipated revenues in a fiscal year.
Force all state departments and agencies to cut their FY 2016-2017 budgets by 3%.
Require every state agency to implement zero-based budgeting, justifying all spending every fiscal year.
Eliminate government entities not absolutely necessary for the functioning of state government, such as the Mexican-American, Indian Affairs, and Equal Opportunity Commissions, Arts Council, Humanities Council, Tourism Dept., Public Advocacy, Rural Economic Development Commission, which duplicates Dept. of Economic Development activities, Tax Equalization Review Comm., library commission, film office, and state tourism office. Terminate the Rural Economic Opportunities Act, a program never used by anyone.
Stop all budget increases for agencies that fail audits.
Mandate performance audits in every state dept. and agency to compare quality of services to monies spent providing them. Budgets would increase or decrease according to meeting performance measurements. In 2006, $2.6 million disappeared from state agencies, paid out to unknown parties.
Require each state dept. and agency to set performance standards for budgeting through a measurement system and then measure and report results compared to targets. Note precise outcomes expected to be accomplished and the cost. Reward success and penalize poor performance.
In exchange for performance accountability, offer programs and managers flexibility in delivering services.
It now seems difficult to evaluate how the state delivers services, and if they are efficient or duplicative. It is important to evaluate services and spending on a statewide basis. Tracking progress towards targets set for statewide benchmarks and categories of services could provide a way not only to identify areas of duplication in services but also more importantly to generate efficiency data. The public is curious about how much money state government spends to provide a specific service or achieve a statewide goal, regardless of the agency involved. The Internet can provide the public such spending information in an efficient and user-friendly manner. NE must develop a comprehensive online system that links its actual spending for every program to a statewide goal, with built-in performance measurement data.
Principles of performance-based organizing: Statutes and regulations governing dept. and agency internal structures and conduct sometimes have a negative effect on their performance and limit their ability to manage for results, forcing them to focus less on results and more on administrative compliance. Though necessary to hold agencies accountable for their decisions, it is also important to grant them freedom to achieve results. The legislature should define what functions dept. and agency managers should accomplish but grant them flexibility in determining how to accomplish these tasks.
Build accountability and openness into the budgeting and planning processes. Oregon linked the goals of its individual state agencies to a set of carefully defined and measurable state benchmarks in wide categories, with data on subjects ranging from crime to skills development. The data shows not only how the indicators have changed but also provides targets for the future.
Performance-based contracting: Use outcome-based contracts that contain clear performance standards and incorporate financial incentives and penalties and advanced performance measurement techniques. Example: If a company fails to meet contract requirements, including an improvement in student reading scores of at least 3 points on a scale of 100, the company receives nothing. An outcome-based statement of work, rigid quality control guidelines, and appropriate financial incentives all are essential to achieve success with performance-based contracts.
Agencies would carry over only a percentage of unspent saved balances at the end of each fiscal year. The remainder deposits in the state General Fund.
Grant agencies a percentage of payroll for additional employee compensation to reward workers and managers whose results exceed performance measures. Increase the amount and/or frequency of merit pay awarded by an agency that exceeds performance measures.
Give financial bonuses to agencies that exceed their performance measures.
To achieve better performance, reduce the number of bureaucratic rules and requirements imposed on state agencies and depts.
Agencies that cut budgets or reduce paperwork by a specific percentage become free of specific state mandates.
Institute performance partnership efforts among government agencies to achieve specific results in program areas.
Establish a scorecard for each department and agency management of operations. Blue star = all or almost all management objectives met. Yellow star = some objectives met. Red “X” = substantial improvement required. Publish ratings in Nebraska newspapers.
Reduce, eliminate, restructure, or consolidate into performing programs ones that are failing.
Allow a private firm the exclusive right to provide a service within a specific geographic area.
Allow departments to purchase support services such as printing, maintenance, computer repair, and training from government or private suppliers. Government providers of support services must operate as independent business units competing against private contractors for department business.
Consolidate dept. and agency payroll schedules to save paperwork, time, and costs.
Former West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, now a U.S. senator, gave all agencies and their staffs a fair chance to shoot at savings ideas and dollar targets. They had to sign “contracts” committing to the agreed savings. If contracts not met, savings cut from other parts of their budget. Actual savings per year exceeded projections.
Government pays for a service. However, individual recipients receive redeemable certificates to purchase the service from the open market private sector.
Amass a comprehensive inventory of activities that the private sector could perform. Require state agencies to identify commercially available services, open up to private competition, and outsource, if a competitor can perform the work for at least 10% below government cost.
State auditor assembles a comprehensive inventory of commercial functions that the private sector could handle. Governor requires agencies and departments annually to put out for competition a % of such functions.
Allow state auditor to conduct periodic, thorough reviews of all functions of state programs, agencies, and departments, make recommendations to maintain, eliminate, privatize, redesign, or restructure functions, and have authority to compel directors to give his office access to all data requested.
Sell or lease to the private sector state-owned enterprises and assets like Mahoney Park, plus excess land and buildings. State government can turn dormant physical capital into financial capital to reduce the deficit. These assets then will add to the tax rolls. Allow agencies to retain a share of monies earned from sales of non-productive assets rather than deposit all proceeds in General Fund.
Utilize Internet auctions to sell surplus state property. Oregon state officials report that profits from their online sales reached twice as high as those from traditional, local auctions.
Privatize concessions in state parks in order to derive revenue from business and salary taxes.
Allow state government to retain ownership of select assets but transfer operations to private businesses for a lengthy number of years.
Open public services to competition by private companies to save taxpayer money and improve service quality. Private companies often show savings with innovation, advanced technology, and commitment to customer service. Exposed to competition, state employees/agencies often find ways to reduce their own costs.
Establish a web site for commerce between state and local governments, allowing cities and counties in groups to avail themselves of the state’s purchasing power by buying supplies and equipment via Internet through prearranged state contracts with a variety of vendors.
Require agencies and departments to buy most goods and services online. Online speeds transactions and reduces administrative costs and staff time. A State of Texas study found that states spend 5.5% of procurement budgets on processing costs. Microsoft estimates the average cost of processing each state purchasing transaction falls from $60 to $5 by moving it online. In Victoria, Australia, electronic purchasing has allowed the Dept. of Natural Resources & Environment to reduce costs from $32 to $5 per order.
Current software can give the state the ability to negotiate and document contracts online. Templates for contracts remain stored in the system, used by an agency to develop a new contract. These systems allow digital signatures or certificates to seal or accept contracts.
Contract with a private company to operate reverse auctions over the Internet to solicit bids for large purchases. In reverse auctions, sellers compete to offer the lowest prices for a commodity or service. By improving the flow of information among buyers and sellers, online marketplaces and reverse auctions make markets more efficient, inducing more competition among suppliers and reducing buyer costs of doing business. Internet auctions and marketplaces have computers that conduct an endless series of analyses, comparing the bidding history of various suppliers with that of buyers and accept or reject bids based on that analysis.
Allow users of state services the convenience of accessing information and services through the Internet. Steer customer service calls to Internet-based self-service. IBM saved $750 million and Cisco Systems saved $506 million.
Mandate that state departments and agencies join multi-state purchasing pools to manage costs.
Buy fuel for state vehicles with advance contracts to save money after fuel prices rise.
Reduce state employee travel and training costs through videoconferencing and e-training.
Establish state government waste commission to propose legislation to end wasteful and unneeded spending programs, bills that would receive preferential floor consideration and a roll call vote with no amendments permitted.
Consolidate large information technology data centers.
Delay capital construction.
Trim state aid to local governments.
Provide a state bounty of $100 to anyone who turns in with proof a state employee, dept., or agency for committing fraud with taxpayer money, e.g., workers comp, welfare, bidding on contracts.
The State Cash Reserve Fund, not committed to usual expenditures, holds $634 million as of Aug. 2016. Use these monies only for emergencies as intended, not monetary transfers.
Stop automatic extension of contracts bid out to private providers and stop segmenting contracts to make each segment fall under the $25,000 competitive bidding start line.
Establish contract oversight, because sometimes, the state pays off contracts at a higher than agreed upon amount, with no review process.
Offer a single point of contact where businesses can obtain all the documents and submit all information required to conduct business in Nebraska.
End funding for the state cultural endowment fund, saving millions.
End subsidies for the ethanol production program, saving millions.
Order agencies to install in all buildings energy-efficient windows and lighting. Set thermostats at maximum and minimum presets.
Eliminate the Site & Building Development Fund. $4 million transferred from the General Fund to this fund to provide financial assistance for land and building purchases, building construction and rehabilitation, and engineering and design costs.
End affordable housing tax credits, saving $329,097 in FY 2017-18. Private developers can provide this housing.
End state subsidies for community health centers, $1 million this next fiscal year. These subsidies compete with private providers.
Stop funding art in public buildings, saving $50,000 annually.
End the annual $355,355 taxpayer subsidy to Legal Aid, a leftwing attorney group.
Eliminate postcards to property owners, informing them of their meager property tax credits, an unnecessary $274,000 expenditure.
Begin a vehicle audit to determine if state vehicles having low mileage are necessary.
The state provides about 50% of the state public broadcasting budget; trim this percentage.
DEPARTMENT OF ROADS:
Privatize work services now handled by the Department of Roads. This dept. is the third highest dept. spender in the state. In FY 2015-16, the department spent 106% of its appropriated budget. Excess expenditures as of June, 2016 equaled $66.8 million. Operation expenses increased by 11.7%, or $13.9 million in FY 2016. Overtime rose by 19.3% and benefits by 6.9% last fiscal year. There are more than 70 kinds of routine maintenance activities, like patching, snow removal, and striping, with a total budget of approximately $150 million. Construction Program includes preservation, construction, reconstruction, and resurfacing. Over $600 million expended every year, including federal and local matching funds.
Outsource responsibility for maintaining entire sections of our Interstate and state highway networks.
Under a design-build contract, the state contracts with a single entity to provide road design and construction services. Used selectively, such contracts offer numerous advantages over traditional approaches, including substantial time savings, simplified project management, superior cost controls, and a reduced need for contract modifications. Financial institutions approve of this approach.
Performance-based contracts stress end results over the traditional contractual terms, with detailed specifications and strict inspections of work in progress. The dept. lists the performance criteria it wants achieved and gives the contractor the freedom to determine how to meet the criteria. For the contract monitoring process to succeed, performance criteria must be objective and measurable.
A pavement warranty is a contractual guarantee that a road will function appropriately for a specific period of time. Contract broken, the contractor must replace or repair the road surface at no cost to the taxpayer. The current warranty used for most government-funded projects is the performance bond, which guarantees only contractor materials and workmanship during the project and for up to one year after completion.
Make contractors face fines for each day past time allotted in a contract for completion but allow them the same amount in bonuses for completing a project early.
Impose better job scheduling and allow attrition and retirement to cull the personnel herd.
Trim travel expenditures that rose by 15.4% in FY 2016, in state by 13.2%, out of state by 28.4%.
Reduce Dept. of Roads expenditures for handling and storing materials and supplies by using just-in-time purchasing practices, requiring suppliers to deliver materials and supplies where used when needed. This action significantly will reduce the amount of warehouse space needed and the resources required to receive, store, inventory, and distribute materials and supplies.
Use leftover asphalt from road paving to stop weeds growing under highway dividers, using something otherwise wasted, to reduce weed control costs.
Calibrate salt-spreaders on snowplows, saving the state millions a year.
Stop planting Scotch Pine trees along the Interstate and state highway systems, because the trees are not drought-resistant, cause injuries and fatalities if hit by drivers, and provide cover for deer to hide and then run out in front of vehicles.
Stop employees from leaving their vehicles running in winter, keeping vehicles warm until they return.
End county designations on Nebraska license plates. Nebraska once paid $50,000 annually to a company for county stickers that did not stick to license plates, earning motorists traffic citations.
Issue vehicle license plates every 5 years instead of every 3 years.
Delay the Game & Parks Comm. clearing park land of trees at lakes for pheasant habitat.
Use donated monies given the Game & Parks Comm. for land acquisition instead to cut its deficit.
Terminate the Nebraska public radio and television networks. Commercial programming competition abounds.
End funding for the NE State Fair, which can solicit private funding.
Privatize the state weights and measures department.
Require every department and agency to return excess funds to the General Fund at the end of every fiscal year. Public officials boast about hefty reserve funds to appear prudent money managers. Decrease the deficit with this surplus.
End funding for interpreters for those seeking state services.
End child care tax credits given businesses.
Limit the amount that tobacco wholesalers receive to apply tax stamps to cents per pack instead of a percentage of the tax rate.
End all special tax exemptions for railroads.
Require all alien green card holders to file state income tax returns under single status, with no exemptions. Faced with withholding, they must file a tax return to obtain a refund.
Sell rights to the Nebraska name, collecting millions annually from companies for the right to designate an “official” state product, like soda pop, candy, or other consumer item.
Consolidate state cell phone contracts and initiate competitive contracts. Allow every employee either a land line phone or cell phone but not both. Trim the number of cell phones given state employees and curtail their use. Make employees reimburse the state for personal cell phone calls. Replace expensive cell phones with beepers and pagers.
State employees can use phones and fax machines instead of vehicles to communicate with other employees. Use more carpooling. Utilize the Internet for meetings.
Limit administrative travel.
Of the 12 highest-paid employees in the state in 2016, 11 were psychiatrists, who earned from $327,201 to $241,802 annually, plus fringe benefits. Privatizing their positions could save thousands.
Place a trigger clause in future contracts to cut salaries, if a recession hits the budget. The average state employee salary in NE in 2016 was $45,518, compared to $33,616 average salary in the NE private sector. Private sector employees in NE earn significantly less than the national average for their job categories, but state employees make slightly more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total number of state employees in 2016 (excluding the University system) would constitute the 12th largest city in Nebraska (18,339).
Cap employment slots in state agencies.
Terminate phantom positions created when agencies receive funding for specific employment positions yet never fill all slots.
Do not fill a vacancy until making a comprehensive analysis to see if position warrants elimination, consolidation, or contracting out at lower cost.
Reward intelligent, industrious individual public employees and depts. with financial incentives and rewards, like performance bonuses and productivity awards, for creative ideas to implement efficiencies and save money.
Distribute a portion of cost savings that result from winning a competition with private sector companies to state employees who aided in this process.
Link public employee pay to performance through performance contracts, bonuses, and productivity awards.
Tie employee bonuses directly to success or failure in meeting slimmed budget goals.
Allow employees who meet agreed-upon performance measures to share in savings below the budget baseline. Because this system uses the most recent performance and budget data as the starting point each year, the effect ratchets down budgets while maintaining or ratcheting up service levels. Under performance-based pay plans, employees and supervisors mutually define and agree on measurable job performance objectives linked to broad goals and mission. Employees then become evaluated on how effectively they accomplish their objectives and win rewards accordingly. Performance pay focuses employee attention on continual improvement. It creates an environment in which employees understand expectations, evaluation, and compensation for their work.
Implement a Telework Incentive Act to reduce state employee turnover and increase productivity. Telework means working in an environment outside the traditional office setting. It provides a strong incentive in recruiting and retaining valued employees, improves morale and job satisfaction, and saves office and parking space. Employees who end commute time and reduce stress will balance work and family more easily and successfully. They appreciate working in a quiet, uninterrupted work environment.
Allow employees who volunteer to cross-train to select a job which interests them.
Taxpayers pay $1.56 for each $1 state employees pay into retirement plans. Lower the taxpayer percentage.
Stop retired private employees from returning to work full-time for the state, whereby they are entitled to both pensions and new salaries and benefits. Such retirees must accept one option or the other.
Prohibit double dipping, whereby a former employee can work a second state career with a new set of benefits while collecting a pension from a previous state job.
The State pays 79% of employee health insurance. Raise the percentage paid by employees.
Merge state and local government health care insurance pools.
Mandate that state retirees pay a greater percentage of their health insurance premiums.
Require that all state employees join a wellness program to improve their health and cut their health insurance costs and the rate of increase for the state or face higher insurance premiums.
Trim increasing overtime expenditures by adjusting work schedules.
Roll back salaries of state constitutional officers.
Privatize worker compensation insurance fund and open its market to private insurers.
State employees enjoy 12 paid holidays annually, compared to 8 paid holidays for most private sector employees. Save millions annually by decreasing number of holidays.
Implement reductions in comprehensive fringe benefit packages through work rule alterations. In 2016, 40c in benefits tied to each dollar of salary.
Terminate the Commission of Industrial Relations, whose decisions routinely mandate higher labor costs for public employers in collective bargaining cases. Governments spend much to appeal to the CIR, as in Omaha Police union contracts. Or, match its salary and benefit comparisons to those of the private sector for comparable jobs instead of comparing them to similar government jobs in the very expensive regional major metropolitan cities.
Most public employees are conscientious and can pinpoint exactly how to make government work better and more efficiently. Actively solicit their input.
We should not expend tax money to recruit out of state students when so many Nebraska youth cannot afford expensive higher education tuition. Non-residents are less likely to remain here to work after graduation and pay taxes.
Lower the direct allocation expenditure from the General Fund to no more than $10,000 per enrolled full-time university student.
A 3% across the board cut in university system departmental expenditures.
Defund the University Diversity Initiative that spends tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on events such as Gay & Lesbian Month, a regional feminist conference touting topics such as bisexuality, witches, and female oppression, and a symposium on gay and lesbian issues, linked directly to a week of legislative lobbying on gay rights, and which included a bold attack on traditional values by a lesbian political activist keynote speaker, who returned home with several thousands in speaker fees.
End funding for a hate crimes coordinator at UNO.
Eliminate the UNL Global Center operations, costing $3 million in FY 2017-18.
Defund the UNL diversity artist residency program.
End the university commissions on women and minority issues.
Trim Access College Early Scholarship Program.
There exist classes not crucial to a quality liberal arts education, with few students enrolled, like the Portuguese language program. Eliminate these low priority programs.
End the university landscaping education program.
End the waste of millions on projects that have no bearing on academic quality or research, like $3 million for a hydraulic indoor track at UNL.
Do not spend savings from administrative cost reductions elsewhere in the University system.
Cut the Board of Regents annual budget by 10%.
Redesign the academic organization of the university, a centuries-old system that shows duplication in our multi-campus system. Most of the university budget pays for personnel costs. In colleges and hundreds of departments, many overlapping administrative positions and secretarial and clerical staff could face elimination. Combining colleges across undergraduate campuses could eliminate many dean positions and department staff duplications.
A chairman of the NU Board of Regents wanted to offer up to $600,000 annual salary to attract a new university president. Eliminate this position and allow campus chancellors to manage the U.
Cut the university bureaucracy. Each campus need not have its own chancellor with staff. Each dean at UN-Kearney need not have an associate dean. This campus has lost almost 2,000 students in 15 years, yet the number of administrators has mushroomed.
NU personnel enjoy a lower cost of living than at most schools we use for comparison. Thus, salary level recommendations we should adjust when making comparisons.
Remove from the NU health benefit package the coverage for contraceptives, which the board of regents approved in April, 2001. Savings: between $1.5 – $2 million dollars.
According to the state auditor, the University Foundation holds billions in undesignated donations. This money could cover a large chunk of the UN-L system budget, freeing millions to erase the deficit and the need for a tuition hike. The Foundation had total endowments of $1.55 billion in 2015 but gave the university system only $230.7 million. Foundation money has purchased country club memberships and 160 SUVs, Cadillac Escalades, and Oldsmobiles for almost a dozen top administrators and 100 coaches and their wives. The Foundation afforded then Pres. Smith $700,000 in a discretionary fund to spend as he wished.
Require each teaching staff member to instruct a full 15 credit hour class load during each semester, thus reducing the number of teaching assistants and instructors/professors.
End the tenure system for university faculty members, making it easier to fire incompetents.
Require university staff give a percentage of consulting fees, earned because of their university positions, to the university.
End the practice of university athletic department contract buyouts that cost thousands for fired and retired UNL assistant athletic coaches. Renegotiate raises given the new staff.
End the free maid service, country club membership, lawn care, snow shoveling, and $5,000 yearly expense account given the UNK Chancellor.
Stop paying for country club memberships and golf outings for university officials.
End the housing allowances given higher ed administrators. Some of these colleges are smaller than Nebraska high schools.
Stop university bonuses. Top administrators receive bonuses worth $850,000 for remaining in the system for 7 yrs.
Defer agreed upon pay raises at every university and college campus until the Legislature completes its FY 2016-2017 budget cuts.
Stop negotiating university union contracts that guarantee specific salary rates of increase.
End several NU public service functions, like public broadcasting, overseas cultural programs, and health services.
End all career services at university campuses.
End the $30,000 university recycling program.
In our Internet information era, eliminate a yearly increase in University library book purchasing spending.
Privatize the University Building, Grounds, & Custodial services and dormitory food services.
A 10% cut in university staff travel expenses would save the system thousands annually. Send fewer employees to conferences and workshops; utilize telecommunications.
Eliminate the $3 million pegged for salary competitiveness with other institutions.
Forbid the university system from hiring and paying lobbyists to lobby the legislature for more taxpayer funding. University officials can lobby.
End University of NE Medical College radio and TV advertising.
Regionalize university programs in coordination with universities/colleges in neighboring states, like our veterinary students now attending college in Kansas. Such endeavor might entice graduate students from neighboring states to permanently reside in Nebraska, adding to our educated work force and tax base.
Save millions by terminating the postsecondary education coordinating commission that oversees state colleges. College staff can make its decisions.
Consolidate the state college board of trustees with the NU board of regents to improve higher education cooperation and eliminate duplicative staff, as recommended by the Strauss Commission.
Cooperation between the university system and state colleges to lower costs by teaching more classes long-distance and thus eliminating unnecessary classroom duplication. The number of students taking classes by Internet and satellite doubled between 1998-99 and 2000-01. All academic departments are developing long- distance courses.
Force community colleges to end classes and course work that exactly duplicate those taught on our state college and university campuses.
End copyediting for subjects such as American Indians Colonized Through Art ($2,800) and Mexicans and Foreigners ($1,772).
Stop buying ads in the Guide to Good Living in Lincoln ($1,250).
Stop paying speakers $44,960 or more on topics like nature safaris.
Stop paying $132,195 to Cornhusker Hotel for reserving rooms for football games.
Cease buying tickets to Worlds of Fun, 300 tickets costing $11,697.
End appropriations for museum planning, saving $26,500.
Eliminate the $2.5 million hike in targeted hires accounts, e.g., early childhood education.
University health care premiums cost estimated to rise by 9.2% in January, 2017; employees should pay a larger percentage of their premiums.
Average Daily Attendance, the actual head count of kids in school, stands at 315,542. On any school day, students enrolled in districts but not in school would equal one of the largest school districts in NE. Each day, taxpayers pay districts for absent students. Spending per pupil for Average Daily Membership totals $12,208, about a 50% increase since $8,013 (2005), and districts receive part of this amount from state aid, regardless of actual attendance. Thus, taxpayers spend millions for kids not in school. Pay school districts on the basis of Average Daily Attendance.
Place a cap on state aid to education, as most state monetary expenditures fund public schools and postsecondary education institutions, e.g., salaries and pensions. This state aid now totals 70% of state aid to local governments and constitutes the largest chunk of the state budget, 21.6%, $952 million in FY 2016. Average growth for the next 2 fiscal years is 5.7%!
In 1990, the state legislature passed the Option Enrollment Law for K-12 students. This law permits students, for curricular reasons, to opt out to other school districts, which then become reimbursed by the State, as the students do not reside in these districts. End this non-essential program. Establish education savings accounts and tuition scholarship tax credits instead.
Save millions by ending early childhood education programs.
Use graduate students, who can earn credits, instead of expensive substitute teachers in the classroom.
End forgiveness of student loans for public school teachers and student teachers.
End state incentive monies for free and reduced-price school meals. Audit this program to narrowly determine eligibility.
The growing cost of providing special education, $5.34 million, to an increasing number of Nebraska children in public schools, with some children unnecessarily in the program for behavior problems, is ravaging public school budgets. Special ed consumes about 1/3 of what we spend on salaries for classroom teachers and constitutes 5% of the state budget. Source: NE Dept. of Education. Shrink the categories of students eligible for special ed programs and expenses.
Repeal the Rule of 85, which allows public school teachers with 30 years of service to retire early at age 55. This rule allows teachers to retire with full pay and then assume another teaching or administrative position in the education field at full salary and benefits. One retiring Omaha Public Schools principal received 66% of his $90,000 salary, $59,400 as pension, plus his new salary as principal at Millard North High School.
Utilize video communication technology that allows for multi-location classrooms.
Expand distance education to reduce per pupil costs.
Utilize state grants for needed capital expenditures to implement new technology.
Consolidate top administration levels among or between neighboring school districts, e.g., one superintendent and asst.-superintendent for more than 1 contiguous school district.
School districts that have high per-pupil costs that demand increasing amounts of state aid should consolidate. School consolidation eventually could save taxpayers up to $100 million yearly.1
Consolidate educational service units and terminate them in metro areas, e.g., Douglas County, that do not need their services.
ESU3 and others have on staff vision consultants, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists, psychologists, special ed teachers, and other personnel extraneous to the main purpose of education and duplicate personnel within individual school districts served by ESUs.
Require school districts to spend at least 70% of their salary budgets on those who actually have student contact, salaries based on classes taught. Administrators teaching classes would earn pay for teaching in a teacher shortage situation.
Press the NE Dept. of Education to repeal regulation mandates on local school districts under Rule 10 (school accreditation) and Rule 51(special education). These mandated costs force school districts to seek additional state aid to help balance their budgets.
Develop a School District Financial Accountability Rating System. This system would impose no additional reporting burdens on school districts yet show easily understandable district financial ratings. An early warning indicator for school districts heading toward financial troubles and a highlight on commendable financial practices in districts where administrators work diligently to maintain public trust.
Each public school district undergoes a financial management review every 5th year by state auditor.
Rework formulas for state aid to school districts to compensate for mandates. Give each school district “x” number of dollars to utilize, each deciding how to spend the money to cover mandates.
Public school district employees in 2016 paid only 9.78% of their retirement contributions. The state, which pays a matching rate of 101%, should force these employees to pay a higher percentage.
Eliminate the Dept. of Education Coordinating School Health Specialist position, saving $31,234.
Eliminate the Teacher/Principal Effectiveness Administrator, saving $224,233.
Eliminate several Dept. of Ed dues and subscriptions to save part of $329,523.2
Attend fewer conferences with registration fees, saving part of $177,032.
End all interpreter services, saving $17,833.
End multicultural diversity curriculum programs.
Lessen or eliminate instead of increasing state aid for free school breakfasts, saving $108,034.
End all summer student food programs.
End Sixpence Programs for infants and toddlers, saving $1 million in FY 2017.
Eliminate Early Childhood Education Grant Program for 3-5 year olds, saving $1,950,000.
End Education Learning Project for K-12 schools, saving $2,607,773.
Eliminate the Early Learning Connection System Support, saving $1,928,365.
End continued support for career education grants, saving $500,000.
Temporarily defund the Nebraska Housing Trust Fund, which funnels $4 million annually to subsidize housing for the poor.
Stop increases in housing assistance.
Seek a federal waiver to temporarily eliminate people from the Medicaid rolls.
Reform the state Medicaid system to permit clients to choose among multiple providers, customize benefits according to patient needs and circumstances, and target benefits to the really needy. Allow recipients to obtain vouchers or refundable tax credits to buy personal insurance through independent brokers from a variety of state plans, e.g., medical savings accounts, fee for service, and managed care. Institute recipient buying pools. The state can apply for a federal waiver to accomplish such.
Place all welfare recipients in managed care plans with pharmacy, physician, and hospital lockin provisions.
Use vouchers for subsidized day care, mental health, drug treatment, housing, and job training.
Lower percentage of welfare programs offering assistance to those living at up to 200% of the designated federal poverty level. Tightening eligibility for welfare payments and closing loopholes could save millions. Welfare accounts for 30.5% of our state budget and in the last 20 yrs. has ranged between this % and 42.5%. Annual welfare spending is rising at between 5.5% and 9.6% annually.
Lobby Congress to cut welfare programs benefiting illegal aliens. Several programs serve illegal aliens on a temporary basis, because federal law requires our HHS Dept. to provide temporary Medicaid coverage to specific individuals who do not qualify for ongoing coverage because of their alien status. Such coverage falls under the Emergency Medical for Aliens program or under the temporary Presumptive Eligibility Medicaid program for children. If an individual who is not a legal alien receives benefits, we must service him under program guidelines established by either federal or state law. (Source: NE Dept. of Health and Human Services).
End the state food stamp program for legal immigrants, saving thousands.
Stop the $2 million appropriation to NE Indian tribes to distribute food stamps to tribes.
Stop printing welfare applications and other forms in foreign languages.
Ferret out private health insurance plans to pay for those applying for and currently on Medicaid.
Utilize data brokers to instantly verify income and assets of Medicaid and other service applicants.
After passage of the 1996 federal welfare reform law, Wyoming boasted the largest welfare caseload reduction by instituting pay for performance, compelling recipients to comply with work requirements and other stringent provisions for personal responsibility before receiving a monthly check. Grants automatically decrease for those who fail to comply without legitimate reasons. Failure to cooperate for 2 months earns termination of services. Copy Wyoming.
Require re-evaluation of eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program every 6 months instead of every 12 months. Applicants for this welfare program can earn almost $60,000 per year. Participating families may earn up to 213% of the federal poverty level to qualify. Companies urge employees to enroll their kids here instead of in the employer group insurance plan, saving these companies money on premiums. Legislators never intended this program to become socialist universal health care coverage.
End all child care subsidies.
Facilitate the speedier adoption of children residing in foster care homes.
End funding for child advocacy centers and home visitation programs, saving millions.
Restrict dental, optical, podiatry, and acupuncture coverage under Medicaid.
Institute private pharmacy contracts to manage Medicaid drug consumption and impose higher drug co-payments.
Promote use of generic drugs.
Obtain rebates from pharmaceutical companies for using their drugs in bulk.
Authorize long-term care and mental health facilities to use automated drug dispensing systems that package and label single doses of drugs as needed. The use of such machines would reduce waste and allow nursing staff to spend more time caring for residents.
Combine purchase of health services and prescription drugs by all state agencies to negotiate lower prices.
Seek pharmacy benefit managers and supplemental rebates to make the Medicaid drug program more cost-effective.
Eliminate the $100,000 now funding a state AIDS program.
Stop welfare energy assistance for utility deposits.
Freeze cost of living adjustments received by welfare recipients.
Place families requesting welfare services on waiting lists.
Utilize audit recovery programs to detect and end fraud, waste, abuse, and mistaken payments.
Terminate the NE Commission on Public Advocacy.
Encourage the provision of more affordable insurance for small businesses and individuals by carefully monitoring the impact of health care mandates on health insurance premium costs and helping small businesses buy low-cost insurance through reducing the impact of state mandates on the cost of insurance.
Lobby to change federal tax law to eliminate tax discrimination against the unemployed and workers whose employers do not offer health insurance. Federal tax law excludes the cost of employer-provided health insurance from taxable wages. Tax credits would encourage individuals without health insurance to purchase it. Change federal law to expand Health Savings Accounts to allow individuals more choices to purchase insurance. Such measures would decrease pressure on Medicaid.
The expanded use of telemedicine would allow more ill children and their families to receive expert medical consultations while staying in their home towns, thus reducing travel costs and avoiding the physical toll of traveling.
End funding for post-adoption and post-guardianship subsidies, saving $1,500 per child.
End state supplemental SSI payments to individuals.
End funding for community health centers.
Eliminate funding for coaches for staff on development disabilities, saving $429,583.
End the practice of paying private companies to use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of state employees; state employees easily can check. $231,919 in savings.
End payment for Spanish-language interpreters, saving between $4,500 and $13,500 each.
Stop spending funds ($185,000) for counseling for sex offenders in Lancaster County.
Stop spending funds ($144,000) for consultants on Medicaid managed care.
Stop spending funds ($10,000) for consultants to develop child and family services training and strategic planning.
Stop egregious unnecessary spending, like $20,000 to analyze public school snacks and $800 to stuff and seal envelopes for Governor greetings to families with newborns. $22,258 to train and equip NE educators, clinicians, and youth service professionals with information to build a strong foundation for understanding experiences and needs of transgender youth. $24,000 to a TV station to market dept. commercials. $131,155 to help parents navigating the Child Welfare System bureaucracy.
Stop hiring companies to help find new department directors, e.g., $40,000 to find a new Medicaid director.
Eliminate preferential funding, such as $8,775 for case management software to improve minority health care.
Eliminate funding for Legal Aid Services, saving $355,355.
Implement regulation reform to save dollars in monitoring costs.
Remove state mandates on local government subdivisions, e.g., multicultural education classes, mandated county property valuations. State costs to monitor compliance with these mandates will disappear.
Cut our state prison recidivism rate. According to the State Dept. of Corrections in FY 2015, the recidivism rate stood at a whopping 22.3%. The number of parole revocations rose to 332 in 2015. According to an InsideGov report, NE spends $35,950 per convict per year, compared to a national average of $31,286. The average convict population is 5,225. All 10 facilities are over capacity, the Lincoln penitentiary by 193%, the Omaha pen by 181%! 1,309 are on parole (2015), average cost each at $5,024. Adding the costs of parole and other expenses, the dept. budget reached $238,881,358 in FY 2016-17. A faith-based approach to incarceration cut the recidivism rate among prisoners in one Brazil prison to 16%, compared to 84% for all other Brazilian prisons. This study, by a U. of Pennsylvania sociologist, examined prison management by an affiliate of Prison Fellowship International, which utilizes religious volunteers, programming, teaching, life-skills training, and spiritual mentoring to gain impressive results.
Accelerate alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent criminals. Increase the chances for successful rehabilitation of substance-abuse addicts, thereby lowering their recidivism rates. Several states fund substance abuse treatment as an alternative to prison. Wisconsin allows judges to order felony drug offenders with no weapons violation or previous record to receive treatment, attend classes, and obtain job and parental counseling. Utilize drug courts.
End softball fees paid for prison inmates.
End satellite TV programming and free cable TV in individual cells.
Close the prison system law libraries, which inmates use for research for their endless appeals.
End free college classes, free telecourses, and cultural awareness programs.
Institute work details at prisons for inmates, to help defray their costs.
Prison inmate health service costs have increased, reaching $32.3 million, $7,110 per inmate, a hike of 13% in 4 years, so make prisoners help pay costs from their inmate jobs. Make inmates pay for their medical costs from their prison stipends.
Move elderly and seriously-ill prisoners to alternative settings. Incarcerate them in nursing homes designed to serve an inmate population. Federal funds could defray most of these nursing home costs. Convert state mental hospitals.
The Tecumseh prison laundry solicits private business and competes with private enterprises. Stop this interference in the marketplace and allow private businesses to handle prison laundry services.
Allow counties and cities to contract with private prison companies.
Jailed teens in the fancy state correctional facility in Kearney cost $114,876 each; total budget there is $11,229,132. Geneva costs equal $6,943,692. Total juvenile detention costs are $18,474,897+. East Omaha Prison teens cost NE taxpayers $61,144 each annually FY 2008, about as much as an Ivy League education and almost 6 times greater than what a typical NE school district spends per pupil per year. High costs in East Omaha accrue, because the inmates, from early teen years to almost 22, receive remedial academic assistance, English as a Second Language instruction, college classes, pre-employment training, sex education, parenting skills, computer basics, special counseling for the socially impaired, and pre-release counseling. The average of 85 youths incarcerated there have 83.75 staff members to monitor them. Cut the perks!
End court interpreter and translation services, saving thousands.
End English as a Second language education.
Save millions by ending provision of free legal services.
Mandate that lifetime registered sex offenders pay for their electronic monitoring.
Institute a bland diet of items such as meatloaf daily, as instituted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona.
End multicultural diversity training for prison staff.
6 portable radios costing almost $6,000 apiece and a $4,400 control station were never used by this department, because staff had undergone no training to use them. Staffers informed auditors that most of the radio equipment bought for this agency sat in a warehouse for 18 months before use. Departments should return unused equipment for refunds or use immediately. Purchase equipment only when needed.
Dissolve the NE State Court of Appeals. Most states have appeals courts, but they have much larger populations than Nebraska. Appeals court judges earn 95% of the salary of state supreme court judges. Besides these 6 hefty salaries are salaries for court administrators, clerks, court reporters, staff attorney, court technology and storage, photocopying, per diems, travel expenses, etc. An appeals court made sense in the 1980s, when caseloads spiked, but caseloads have leveled off.
TAKE ACTION NOW. Remember that the best cuts come from sacred cows. Everything in the state budget should become subject to scrutiny. Contact your state senator today to use NTF suggestions to cut inefficiencies, waste, duplication, and fraud from the Nebraska state budget. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for senator contact information.
Research and documentation for this worksheet done by members of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. This material copyrighted by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by other groups in the Nebraska Conservative Coalition Network. 9-16. C