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The new guy delivered the sermon Thursday to the Legislature.

Bob Krist, freshman senator from Omaha, took a few minutes during second-round debate on the main budget bill to exhort senators to consider bringing fresh ideas next session that would bring money into the state.

It's one thing, he said, to just have the Appropriations Committee stand guard over any bill that would cost the state money. It takes a little more creativity, and business sense, to bring ideas that raise revenue.

On first-round debate on the budget, a number of senators rose to cast a warning about upcoming budgets and the hundreds of millions of revenue shortfall the state could have to make up. Most of that discussion focused on cuts, with a brief mention of tax increases.

The reality is, Krist said, a 2 percent across-the-board cut is not truly across-the-board. The Legislature didn't include some of its "sacred cows."

Not included in the across-the-board cuts were such items as judges' salaries, higher education, 24-hour facilities such as the regional centers, the department of corrections, and the Nebraska State Patrol, excluding Capitol security.

The cuts would save $5.8 million. But 90 percent of the budget was excluded from the cuts.

If a 1 percent cut were applied across the entire budget, the savings would be $34 million.

"If times get worse," Krist said, "the sacred cows will have to be looked at."

Some good examples in this session of looking for revenue, he said, included a bill introduced by Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber that will bring in half a million dollars annually in alcohol shipping license fees. That bill (LB867) increases the fee for out-of-state shippers from $200 to $1,000.

Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed the bill, but the Legislature voted to override the veto.

The Legislature needs to act like a business in protecting its investments -- such as the 50 military installations, including armories and reserve centers, that contribute to local economies, Krist said.

In 2007, for example, the Nebraska Air National Guard's annual payroll was $44 million, and $20 million in other paid expenses. That, combined with the value of jobs created, equals a total impact of nearly $75 million.

The economic impact of Offutt Air Force Base is close to $2.2 billion.

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Sen. Cap Dierks said the Legislature needs to look at restructuring government rather than staying so entrenched with what it has, and sticking to old notions because some people and institutions don't want to change.

One resident wrote a letter questioning why the Legislature spends so much time debating bills like roadside trapping and expanding deer hunting instead of solving property tax problems, he said.

During the debate Thursday, some senators questioned the money the state spends on the Nebraska Cultural Preservation Endowment Fund, saying it's going to have to make some tough decisions on priorities in the future.

Sen. Dennis Utter of Hastings said the state might need to look more to private funds and arts patrons to cover those kinds of expenses.

Senators advanced the budget bills to final reading.

Reach JoAnne Young at 473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com.

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