It took another two-hour debate to get the mainline budget bill to final reading, but Nebraska legislators got through step two of passing a budget Wednesday evening. 

Senators voted 40-7 to advance the bill, and it could be subject to extended debate again on final reading.  

Wednesday's debate started with an amendment by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood to eliminate a study of long-term care needs in the state that would provide a strategy for maintaining nursing homes and ensure access to care for the increasing numbers of aging Nebraskans. 

That study, which Clements said was unnecessary and didn't belong in the budget, would cost $175,000, of which half would be covered by federal funds. 

Sen. Steve Erdman, who is on the Appropriations Committee, said he supported the Clements amendment and that he believed the expenditure was slipped into the budget, a budget that he does not support because it would result in too much spending. 

The $9.3 billion state budget represents a 2.9% average two-year increase in spending. 

Sen. Kate Bolz, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, defended the study, saying it is "very different" from a long-term care redesign study by the Department of Health and Human Services, and could be complementary. It would not add administrative burdens to the department, she said, and was not slipped into the budget, as Erdman had said.

"We are being very transparent," she said, with a hearing, committee discussion and a committee vote.

The Clements amendment failed on a 28-21 vote. 

No amendments were discussed about lowering the appropriation for the University of Nebraska or state colleges. But five amendments are still pending on the bill and could be brought up during final reading. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.


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