Report: Nebraska has lowest per capita debt

2010-08-05T01:00:00Z Report: Nebraska has lowest per capita debtBy NANCY HICKS / Lincoln Journal Star
August 05, 2010 1:00 am  • 

While other states are digging themselves deeper into debt, Nebraska continues to borrow little, and, at $15 per person, has the lowest per capita debt in the nation, according to a recent CNN Money report.

That's not big news for most Nebraskans, aware that the state constitution prohibits state debt.

"Our debt profile is very, very small," said Mike Calvert, director of the Legislature's Fiscal Office.

The highest is $4,859 per capita in Connecticut.

The Nebraska Constitution allows the state to go into debt only for revenue bonds for highways and for water projects.

Nebraska has not used that bonding authority in years, although there has been some discussion in recent years of bonding for highway construction.

The CNN profile appears to include Nebraska educational television's conversion to digital and a lease-purchase device Nebraska uses to finance some equipment purchases, according to Wes Mohling, with the state's accounting division.

The master lease purchase program is used to buy things such as phone systems, trucks and wheelchair-accessible vans, according to a 2009 state auditor's report.

The state sells certificates of participation that mature in three to 15 years, depending on how the money was used.

The program, established in 1993, has been used to build parking facilities and buy computer hardware and software, based on the auditor's report.

In June 2008, the lease program had an outstanding total of $23,308,711, including interest.

The CNN report says the amount of debt states are carrying spiked 10.3 percent last year, to $460 billion.

States are using debt financing for traditional capital construction and to cover budget shortfalls or restructure debts to lower monthly payments, CNN said.

Nebraska and several bordering states have among the lowest debt burdens, according to the report.

Missouri's per-capita debt load is $780; Kansas, $1,140; Colorado, $400; Wyoming, $77; South Dakota, $135; and Iowa, $73.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or

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