LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday vetoed $56.5 million in state spending during the next two years, with the largest cuts hitting the University of Nebraska and providers who serve the elderly, poor and people with developmental disabilities.
He said the cuts are a thoughtful and measured approach to continued declines in revenue tied to a struggling farm economy.
“When Nebraska families see their income go down, they tighten their belts and they’re expecting us to do the same thing,” Ricketts said.
He chided lawmakers Monday for balancing the budget with “budget gimmicks and a gas tax increase.” His vetoes also will reduce the amount transferred from a highway fund to avoid triggering an increase of two-tenths of a cent in the state’s gas tax.
The Department of Correctional Services, K-12 education, and the property tax credit relief fund will not receive cuts, but nearly all other state agencies will be subject to a cut of 0.5 percent. This will keep a cash reserve balance of 3 percent of the budget, while the budget passed by the Legislature would have allowed cash reserves to fall to 2.5 percent.
“We should be thinking of taking that reserve up,” Ricketts said. “We’re going in the wrong direction.”
The vetoes will cut more than $33 million over two years for providers who care for Medicaid recipients, people with developmental disabilities, and abused or neglected children.
The University of Nebraska will lose an additional $5.7 million over the two years. Ricketts said the state Board of Regents is responsible for any decisions on student tuition, and the university must “live within the means of the entire state.”
Ricketts on Friday cut $11 million from a capital construction bill that would pay to replace the Capitol’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems. He said the project remains a priority and will not be delayed, but that the state couldn’t afford the expense during the next two years.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said the HVAC funding cuts are a “slap to the Legislature.” Although all three branches of government use the Capitol building, it’s seen as the Legislature’s, he said.
The budget-writing Appropriations Committee will meet Tuesday morning to go over the vetoes. Any attempts to restore funding will take place Wednesday, and senators will need 30 votes to override a veto.
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