Every bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature gets a fiscal note attached to it.
Fiscal notes are usually boring and not much fun to read. Fiscal notes are usually written by budgetary experts working for relevant state agencies and are supposed to explain what kind of fiscal impact the bill would have on the State budget.
Usually, fiscal notes are carefully calculated and accurately tell state legislators how much money a bill would cost to the state once it becomes a law. However, fiscal notes are not always written with care and precision. Such was the case last week when I received the fiscal note for my bill, LB 468, a bill to compensate landowners for damages caused to their property by wildlife.
LB 468 seeks to clarify the meaning of Article 1, Section 21 of the Nebraska State Constitution which says, “The property of no person shall be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation therefor.”
The bill clarifies this section of the constitution by requiring the Game and Parks Commission to reimburse landowners for damages caused to their property by wildlife.
The fiscal note on this bill made some very outrageous claims. Some of them were in my favor, while others were grossly distorted facts. For instance, one of the more outlandish claims that the Game and Parks Commission made in the fiscal note was that only 11 mountain lions have caused damages to property over the past 3 years with average losses of only $684 per year. According to the Game and Parks Commission, mountain lions only feed on goats and chickens.
Most surprisingly, though, was how the Game and Parks Commission estimated the damages caused to private property by wildlife. In the fiscal note, the Game and Parks Commission had to admit that 75% of all landowners in Nebraska suffer damages to their property that are caused by wildlife. This is a point that I have tried to hammer home to them for years, but they have stubbornly refused to admit until now.
The mere fact that 75% of all landowners suffer damages to their property caused by wildlife ought to be sufficient evidence to make wildlife management the No. 1 priority for the Game and Parks Commission, but it is not. Instead, they prefer to keep growing the herds of antelope, deer and elk.
The most outlandish claim made by the Game and Parks Commission in their fiscal note for LB 468 was their estimate for how much it would cost the state of Nebraska to reimburse all of these landowners with property damages caused by wildlife. Their estimate totaled more than $117 million!
Once you pick yourself up from the floor and begin reading again, let me simply tell you that this number is wrong.
The figure of $117 million is wrong because the fiscal analyst working for the Game and Parks Commission never bothered to read my companion bill to LB 468. At the same time I introduced LB 468 on the floor of the Legislature, I also introduced LB 469, which is an Appropriations bill stipulating how the state would go about reimbursing these landowners.
According to my companion bill, LB 469, the Game and Parks Commission would use $10 million from their Wildlife Conservation fund to reimburse landowners on a pro rata basis. In other words, the $10 million would be spread out among all those filing for property damages throughout the calendar year and paid out on Feb. 1 of the following year. So, the Game and Parks Commission missed the actual number of what it would cost the state of Nebraska to reimburse landowners by $107 million!
I am sad to report how this kind of careless work by the Game and Parks Commission has caused me to question nearly everything they do.