Omaha World-Herald. Nov. 20, 2015
Gifts to NU are investments in the future.
Private donations can bring big opportunities for public and private colleges and universities.
Just the other day, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln received a generous $20 million gift from the Johnny Carson Foundation to create a new program in film special effects, virtual reality and video game design.
Recent analysis by the University of Nebraska found that since 1999, just over half of capital construction projects on NU campuses have been funded with private dollars.
The new UNL College of Business Administration building, for instance, will be funded by a variety of private donations. Part of a recent $30 million gift from the Clifton Foundation and Gallup will go toward construction, with remaining funds to create the Don Clifton Strengths Institute focusing on the identification of people's strengths to maximize their work performance.
Here are some additional examples of positive changes brought about in Lincoln alone through major donations for NU-wide or UNL-focused projects.
The Water for Food Institute, a universitywide institution with a global reputation on water policy and environmental studies, came about through a $50 million gift from the Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation.
UNL students are seeing new opportunities through the agribusiness entrepreneurship program established by a $20 million gift from the Paul F. and Virginia J. Engler Foundation.
NU is gaining national attention for its early childhood research and policy applications, following a gift from Susie Buffett.
UNL hosts an impressive roster of national and international experts on food, agricultural and environmental policy through the Heuermann Lecture Series, made possible by a gift from B. Keith and Norma Heuermann of Phillips, Nebraska.
Music studies have been strengthened at UNL through an $8 million from Glenn Korff. The same for the study of international trade and finance following a lead gift of $2.5 million from NU alumnus Clayton Yeutter, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture.
Nebraska ag producer groups have funded new faculty positions as UNL carries out a welldesigned expansion of its agricultural studies.
Forward-thinking donors to public and private institutions in the Midlands are to be applauded. They make a positive difference for students and our region's future.
The Grand Island Independent. Nov. 20, 2015
Guard shows its confidence in Grand Island.
Central Nebraskans have a long history of serving honorably in the Nebraska Army National Guard. Whether it is in connection with the armory in Grand Island or units in Hastings, Kearney or Broken Bow, the Guard has served on missions both near and far away.
So it was with great anticipation that many awaited the announcement of the Guard's restructuring in Nebraska — and it was good news as the Guard in Central Nebraska and the Panhandle saw its missions expanded.
Gov. Pete Ricketts and Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Nebraska adjutant general, made the announcement Tuesday.
In the restructuring Grand Island will get a military police detachment. This will increase the number of guardsmen in Grand Island by 43. This is a welcome expansion of the Guard's presence here.
First, it will provide new opportunities for recruits and Guardsmen in this area. Grand Island already has a readiness center and an aviation support facility. The military police unit should prove to be attractive to new recruits.
Second, it is a nice complement to what Grand Island already offers. The community already is a law enforcement training center for the state with the Nebraska State Patrol's training center here, as well as the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center. Having a National Guard military police unit here will be an excellent fit.
There were also positive changes announced elsewhere in the state. A transportation company in Chadron and Scottsbluff will become a military police company. In Kearney, a transportation company will become a brigade support headquarters and field maintenance unit.
These changes will add diversity to the Guard's offerings in western Nebraska. Previously, all units from Kearney west were trucking units.
Bohac said that change should make the National Guard more attractive to recruits. "There are only so many people who are interested in being truck drivers," he said.
Other changes include the transition of an engineering detachment and brigade support company detachment in Hastings into a new engineering forward support company.
Overall, the restructuring plan was good to Nebraska. The Army National Guard is cutting its forces nationally by 15,200 by September 2017, mostly through attrition. The Army also is reducing its troop strength by 40,000 and combat brigades from 45 to 30 because of budget cuts.
So, for Nebraska to not have any armories close, plus have little change in the number of Guard forces in the state, is extremely fortunate indeed.
Nebraskans will look forward to the changes and the transition should go smoothly. And, as always, Army National Guard members in Nebraska will be ready to serve the country whenever they are called.
McCook Gazette. Nov. 19, 2015.
College, community both winners in facility donation.
"I love it when a plan comes together."
That catch-phrase by Col. John "Hannibal" Smith on the old "A Team" television series applies in the real-life donation of McCook's old Elks Club on East Seventh.
Wednesday night, owners Perry and Vicky Case officially donated the property to grateful Mid Plains Community College officials, who will put the property to good use.
"MCC has basically been landlocked," MPCC President Ryan Purdy said in today's release. "So for us to be able to expand our facilities within walking distance of campus is huge."
It will take time to finalize plans, and the facilities need to undergo renovation, but they'll enhance many aspects of the college's educational efforts — athletics, partnerships with business and industry as well as the public school system and technical programs.
The donation also reinforces the Cases' position on the list of private citizens who have done much to make McCook a great place to live.
They took over an important community facility when changing demographics and declining membership made it impossible for the Elks Club to keep it open. As a private business, it continued to host many community events in the intervening years, but the time finally arrived to find the long-term future McCook Community College offers.
The 25,000-square foot, two level building is surrounded by what was the Broken Tee Par 3 9-hole golf course, and long before that, the Elks golf course.
Perry Case said it was always their goal to return the facility to community use, and it's being done without any strings.
"Whatever you decide to do with it, we'll support it," he told the Board of Governors Wednesday night.
Thanks to the donors and the college for making this transition possible. We can't wait to see how the beautiful building and grounds are used to help make a better life for the children and grandchildren of our community.
The Lincoln Journal Star. Nov. 19, 2015.
Use cash reserve responsibly.
First the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board revised its predictions for tax revenue downward by $132 million for this year and next.
Within a few days the state Revenue Department confirmed the validity of that projection with a report that showed net tax revenue for the month of October was 8.4 percent below the projections made in April.
That's the second month in a row that revenue failed to meet projections. Net revenue for the year is now 2.5 percent below projections.
There are two important takeaways from the reports.
First and most important, the reports show the importance, once again, of maintaining a sizable cash reserve to cushion Nebraskans against the economic downturns.
The state currently has more than $700 million set aside in its rainy day fund. That will provide a measure of financial stability even with a $132 million shortfall.
The second takeaway is that state senators should be extremely skeptical of tax cut plans that could undermine Nebraska's financial security.
For example, representatives from the Platte Institute for Economic Research are traveling the state to tout a plan to cut income taxes. The plan calls for relying on "a small portion of the state's existing cash reserve" in order to pay for the tax cut.
The institute promises that the plan would "ultimately result in accelerated business creation, greater job growth, and a vibrant, expanding state economy."
State senators would be wise to disregard such blandishments, and instead turn to a report from the state Department of Revenue.
If state senators want to stimulate the Nebraska economy, a cut in the sales tax would be more effective, according to the department's even-handed and nonpartisan analysis.
A $100 million sales tax cut would boost disposable income for Nebraska taxpayers by $184 million, pump $113 million into the economy and help create 2,155 jobs. Cutting income taxes by the same amount would translate to an increase of $113 million in disposable income, mean an estimated $30 million in private investment and help create 1,199 jobs.
Pursuing either option at a time when the revenue stream for state government is slowing would be foolhardy.
In addition to sustaining funding for existing programs, the state is also facing the very real possibility that it will need to build new prison facilities to cope with overcrowding that has been ignored for years.
To put it simply, Nebraskans have been well-served by responsible spending decisions in the past. State senators should continue that tradition by dipping into the cash reserve only for the right reasons - not to cover the costs of a dubious tax reform scheme.