Gov. Pete Ricketts insists he acted within his constitutional authority in withholding money from state agencies.
The governor proposed $151 million in budget cuts to begin dealing with a state revenue shortfall. The legislature’s Appropriations Committee reduced it to $137 million in Legislative Bill 22. Legislators have given it preliminary approval, but not without grumbling on the part of some senators who charged during legislative floor debate last week that the governor exceeded his constitutional authority in cutting agency budgets unilaterally.
A few legislators also suggested the governor should have called a special legislative session late last year to get input from veteran senators on how best to handle a projected $900 million revenue shortfall.
“I talked to a number of senators and there was really no appetite for a special session,” Ricketts replies when asked about the senators’ comments.
Ricketts defends his approach, denying he violated the constitution. He says the Unicameral is taking the steps needed to handle the shortfall and soften the impact for the upcoming two-year state budget.
“We made the right decision,” Ricketts says. “This budget can be handled within the current framework of what we have from this legislature and that’s what the Appropriations Committee is doing. So, we’re absolutely right on track to get this budget modification package done.”
The governor and his supporters have argued that making budget cuts now will make it less difficult to make cuts for the next 2017-19 biennium budget, the state spending blueprint for the coming two fiscal years. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board projected a $900 million dollar revenue shortfall for the upcoming biennium. It meets again to consider a possible revision to that projection later this month.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]