LINCOLN — After reaching a compromise, Nebraska lawmakers advanced a bill that would provide about $310 million to underserved parts of the state, including North and South Omaha.
Legislative Bill 1024 passed its second round of debate through a voice vote Thursday. It needs to pass just one more round of debate before it goes to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ desk.
The total funding is a significant drop from the $475 million that State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha was originally seeking during the first round of debate. Wayne said he hopes the funding will encourage local businesses to contribute private dollars to the effort.
The $310 million will be spread out over two years, with $175 million appropriated this year. Most of the funding would come from the $1.04 billion Nebraska is receiving through the American Rescue Plan Act, with $40 million coming from capital projects and $10 million coming from the state’s general fund.
The initial funding would support affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, crime prevention projects and other efforts.
Wayne worked to address a series of concerns and criticisms raised during the first round of debate on LB 1024.
The version advanced Thursday would create a committee that would determine the appropriation for the remaining $135 million next year. Wayne said if he is unable to prove the need for the additional funding next session, he does not expect lawmakers to approve it.
“This adds another layer of accountability,” Wayne said.
Another compromise Wayne made over the last week was expanding the bill to encompass underserved areas outside of Omaha. Now, parts of Lincoln and rural areas with high concentrations of low-income residents will also have access to the same resources.
Unlike the first round of debate, during which several senators expressed concerns over how the bill would be funded, Thursday’s debate saw most senators praising Wayne and LB 1024.
“This is an example of cooperation,” said Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward.
The final remaining concern from the first round was that LB 1024 would take too much money from a $128 million fund meant to support broadband internet service throughout the state. The $40 million the bill includes from capital projects is part of that fund, and several senators said they were concerned that would not leave enough money to establish internet connections in rural areas.
“It’s critically important, and it is really expensive,” said Sen. Mike Jacobson of North Platte.
Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, who raised the concerns, said he will continue to negotiate with Wayne about the funding. Despite his concerns, Friesen praised Wayne for splitting the funds over two years, and said he was willing to give Wayne the chance to prove his plan will work.
“I think he has acted very responsibly,” Friesen said.
With the adjustments made on Wayne’s bill, lawmakers also advanced LB 1014, which allocates the bulk of the state’s ARPA funding. The bill, which provides funding for some 40 projects and initiatives, advanced to the third and final round of debate.