With wide margins of support, the Nebraska Legislature on Tuesday gave final approval to the state's two-year budget package, along with a plan to extend a state-University of Nebraska partnership to address building maintenance needs across the campuses.
The deferred maintenance proposal (LB384) continues an existing partnership through 2061-62, providing state funding to be matched dollar-for-dollar by the university to address an estimated $800 million in deferred maintenance needs across the NU system.
More than one-third of the university's buildings are 50 years or older, and many require significant updates to make them suited for 21st-century teaching and learning. University facilities collectively represent 70 percent of the state's total building assets.
The deferred maintenance legislation was introduced by Sen. John Stinner, chairman of the Appropriations Committee. NU System President Ted Carter praised Stinner for his leadership in shepherding the proposal through the legislative process, noting that facilities play a key role in the recruitment and retention of top faculty, staff and students. Beyond that, by capitalizing on today's historically low interest rates, the deferred maintenance legislation yields significant savings for Nebraska taxpayers over its 40-year duration.
"The legislature's approval of LB384 represents a visionary approach to caring for valuable university facilities," Carter said. "Not only does this package save Nebraska taxpayers $1.5 billion, but it puts our university on a path to self-sustainability in keeping our buildings safe and up-to-date for students, faculty and staff. That sets Nebraska apart on the national stage.
"We thank Chairman Stinner for his forward-thinking leadership in stewarding this proposal, and the Appropriations Committee and full legislature for their strong show of support. With Chairman Stinner's leadership, senators have delivered a major win to Nebraskans."
The legislature also approved the 2021-23 state budget package, including funding for the University of Nebraska as well as the Nebraska Career Scholarships, a new state program providing scholarships for students in high-need areas.
"We are pleased that the legislature has approved the Appropriations Committee's recommendation for our budget items, including the increase to our base budget and needed funding for deferred maintenance projects at both UNO and UNMC," said Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). "We will ensure that this investment in the university's future has tremendous return to the state economically, intellectually and in service to others."
NU sought 2 percent increases in state funding each of the next two years, a modest request acknowledging fiscal challenges related to COVID-19. The funds will help cover salary increases for faculty and staff; other expenses incurred by the university during the biennium will be funded through an ongoing budget reallocation process.
The legislature's decision to fully fund the university's request clears the way for a two-year, across-the-board tuition increase across the NU system, ensuring that higher education remains affordable for the university's 52,000 students, Carter said.
"We are grateful for our elected leaders' support for quality, accessible education and workforce development in our state," he said.Both the state budget package and deferred maintenance legislation are now on Gov. Pete Ricketts' desk for consideration. The governor has until Monday to approve, veto or line-item veto the bills.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.