May is budget month for the State of Nebraska in the Unicameral Legislature. The main budget for the year will add up to $10.7 billion. The Legislature has been busy debating four primary budget bills, so today I would like to tell you about a few items in the budget that will benefit Western Nebraska.
Fort Robinson is first on the list. Fort Robinson stands to receive $20 million dollars to be used for improvements to the fort. $2 million has been designated to memorialize the all-Black Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, who were stationed at Fort Robinson in 1885 and served there for the next 18 years.
Although a display for the Buffalo Soldiers currently stands at the History Nebraska Fort Robinson Museum, little else has been done to honor the Buffalo Soldiers. Among other things, the Buffalo Soldiers were charged with the task of controlling Native Americans in the plains during the Ghost Dance Era. The ghost dance was revived in 1890 among the Lakota Sioux, who believed that performing the dance with vestments known as ghost shirts and singing prophetic songs could wipe out the white man and restore the buffalo herds.
The story of the Buffalo Soldiers needs to be told. Ironically, the Buffalo Soldiers, who represented one minority group in America, were charged with the task of controlling another minority group in America. The title of "Buffalo Soldier" was a name given to these soldiers by Native Americans because their black curly hair reminded them of the bison on the plains. Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry were also stationed at Fort Niobrara near Valentine.
This year's budget will also benefit the Halsey National Forest. Last fall wildfires torched much of the forest including the 4-H Camp. $10 million in matching funds has been designated for the Halsey National Forest in order to help rebuild the 4-H Camp. In addition to these funds, private monies are also being raised to help restore the camp's buildings.
The City of Kimball will also benefit from this year's budget. $10 million will go to the City of Kimball and other outlying towns in the Panhandle in order to help them prepare for the increase in population when the U.S. Department of Defense begins upgrading their Minuteman III nuclear missiles and silos.
This year's budget will also include $574.5 million from the cash reserve fund in order to begin construction on the Perkins County Canal. Building the canal will preserve Nebraska's water rights along the South Platte River according to the compact that was signed between Colorado and Nebraska back in 1923.
Finally, an amendment to my bill, LB 28, was included in this year's budget. LB 28 is my TERC bill. TERC stands for the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. The TERC board consists of commissioners who rule on property tax appeals. That amendment adds a fourth commissioner to the TERC board and raises their rate of pay to 85 percent of what Supreme Court justices make for the board's chair and 70 percent for the other three commissioners.
It can take commissioners on the TERC board several years to make a ruling on a single case. By adding a fourth commissioner we will increase the number of hearings by at least 33 percent which will help speed up the process. It should never take the commissioners three years or more to make a ruling on a single case. When it comes to property valuations, landowners in Nebraska deserve quick and speedy decisions on their appeals.