February 14, 2016

Gov. Heineman outlines budget proposal, tax reform today (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman outlines his legislative priorities today in the annual State of the State address to the Unicameral.

Heineman tells reporters in a conference call that one issue stands out.

“I think we all know what the big issues are,” Heineman says. “The most important issue at the beginning of every two-year session is the budget.”

Heineman says his budget proposal will include tax reform, but he offers no specifics, replying when pressed that he will disclose it during the speech in the legislative chamber.

A coalition of special interest groups anticipates a call for tax cuts, similar to last year when Heineman called for a $326 million tax cut. State lawmakers, still worried about state revenue, trimmed the package down to $97 million.

The coalition, led by Voice for Children Nebraska and Nebraska Appleseed, made a preemptive strike of sorts on Monday, holding a news conference in which it urged the legislature to consider restoring budget cuts before considering tax cuts.

Jennifer Carter with Nebraska Appleseed says cuts made in wake of the 2008 recession should be restored now that state revenue has seen a rebound.

“I think we’re saying we really should be thinking twice before we deplete our revenue further and continue to burden the same groups of people,” Carter says.

The coalition focused on three areas: public schools, healthcare and local communities.

Ultimately, it will be up to the legislature to draft a budget.

Appropriations Committee Chairman, Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, will be listening closely to what Gov. Heineman outlines.

“We may agree. We may not. But, my hope is to try to build consensus within this body and, ultimately, as much consensus as we can with the executive branch on the shared priorities that both of our branches of government have for the state of Nebraska,” Mello says.

Mello and Heineman have clashed in the past, but both has pledged to cooperate as they forge a spending plan for state government for the next two years.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]

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