Appropriations Committee recommends veto overrides

Appropriations Committee prepares to meet on veto overrides (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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May 16, 2017 - 5:45pm

The Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee Tuesday recommended overriding a little more than half the money Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed out of the budget for the next two years. The move sets up a showdown over spending that some say extends beyond the next two years.

The Appropriations Committee met to decide how to react to Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoes of $56.5 million worth of spending over the next two years, out of a total state budget of nearly $9 billion. Sen. Mike McDonnell recommended simply overriding all of the vetoes, but the committee defeated that. Members then made motions to override particular vetoes. They voted to override more than $32 million worth of cuts to providers of services in the areas of behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and Medicaid – largely for nursing homes. They also voted to override $300,000 in cuts to probation services.

Sen. John Stinner, chairman of the committee, said the judiciary had asked for the probation override. “This was their request, the Supreme Court’s request to maintain those dollars as it relates to probation and prison overcrowding. That is a priority that we set. The other priority that we set was really provider rates, and making sure we maintain providers at least at the flat level. That’ll be the case that we’ll make,” Stommer said.

Ricketts’ vetoes would reduce the pool of money to reimburse providers by about 3 percent.

Many of the Appropriations Committee votes to recommend overrides were passed by a 5-4 margin. Stinner laughed when asked about that. “It hasn’t been a smooth session, has it? I knew that there are people on the committee that have different viewpoints. Certainly I think the committee represents what the makeup is on the floor. So you’re getting a pretty good idea of what the issues are, what the arguments will be, just based on what you heard in the committee,” he said.

One senator who opposed every override recommendation was Sen. John Kuehn. Kuehn described a basic split in the committee. “The committee is divided on two different perspectives on how to approach this budget. One on whether we need to be thinking about the long-term issues associated with where we are economically as a state, and the other being with protecting the spending priorities of state agencies,” Kuehn said.

Kuehn predicted those divisions will be at play when the full Legislature votes Wednesday on whether to accept the committee’s recommended overrides or to sustain the governor’s vetoes. “I think you’re going to again see the same kind of split reaction among the Legislature that we saw yesterday when the line-item vetoes were announced,” he said. “I certainly had some colleagues who came to me saying there wasn’t enough cut, that they were looking for significantly more reductions to the budget and others that felt that the $55 million was draconian.”

In addition to the overrides the committee recommended, individual senators can also try to override spending vetoes. Sen. Anna Wishart said she’ll support overriding another $1.3 million vetoed from rates paid to providers of child welfare services. “It is disappointing to me that the one area that the governor – and I would hope that the Legislature chooses differently on this – where we are not protecting public safety is for kids,” Wishart said.

Wishart said the money would go to pay for services for abused and neglected children, including shelters and group homes.

Sen. Adam Morfeld said he will try to override several million dollars in cuts to the University of Nebraska.

Ricketts said he’s encouraging senators to sustain all of his vetoes.   





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