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CAPITOL VIEW: Gov. Heineman, Legislature nearing political power battle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 05 May 2011 16:51

A showdown or two might be shaping up in the Legislature.

Actually, as this column goes to press, the shows might be going down. Or have gone down. Still, we’re talking about interesting stuff.

Gov. Dave Heineman has long been viewed as having plenty of juice when it comes to getting the Unicameral to see things his way.

The officially nonpartisan Legislature is manned by an overwhelmingly Republican majority which boasts of its conservative credentials. And that’s pretty much how Heineman can be described; overwhelmingly Republican and proudly conservative.

But Heineman is (or was) looking down a double-barrel of possible policy losses.

First, there was that revolutionary business about earmarking state sales tax dollars for the first time, ever, to pay for highway projects. It is being pushed by the ever-pushy Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine.

Heineman told lawmakers it was a bad idea from the beginning, but they gave it first-round approval.

Thereafter, Heineman said it was a really bad idea, but they gave it second-round approval, and by an even bigger margin.

And then Heineman said it was a really, really bad idea.

The question is whether Fischer can champion the idea across the goal line, and then override a veto if Heineman decides to put policy principles, and political pride, on the line.

And then there is the issue of putting a higher tax on nursing homes that handle Medicaid patients. Heineman vetoed the thing, saying it amounted to a $14 million tax increase on nursing home patients.

The bill was passed on a 44-1 vote. That’s 14 more than were needed to override the veto and enact the measure over Heineman’s objections. And that is what happened – Heineman’s veto was slapped down, 44-0.

The measure would have the state use the $14 million tax on nursing homes and thus open the gate for $20 million in federal matching funds. That money would be funneled to nursing homes as a portion of their payment for Medicaid patients.

Heineman said the bill is no more than an accounting gimmick to allow the state to collect more federal dollars through a program that will eventually stop providing those funds.


Nebraska and Social Security

One can debate what, if anything, Congress should do to bolster the Social Security system … other than not robbing it any more to pay for other programs and lying about repaying the money.

The economic impact of Social Security benefits on Nebraska’s economy is not debatable.

First, consider that Nebraska is among the states that tax Social Security benefits as income.

Second, according to figures from AARP, Social Security makes up at least half the income for over half of Nebraskans age 65 and older. And 25 percent of older Nebraskans say Social Security is their only source of income. Those same figures showed that 47 percent of Nebraskans over age 65 would fall below the poverty line without Social Security benefits.


ED HOWARD is the statehouse correspondent for the Nebraska Press Association.