Gov. Pete Ricketts has issued his vetoes. The legislature now considers whether to restore the cuts.
Ricketts, in announcing his line-item vetoes of the budget bills, has indicated he didn’t care for the spending plan approved by the Unicameral.
“Now, the budget that was handed to me was balanced with budget gimmicks and a gas tax increase,” Ricketts told reporters Monday afternoon during a news conference announcing his budget vetoes.
Ricketts used the line-item veto authority given the governor to carve an extra $56.5 million from the $8.9 billion biennium budget approved by the legislature.
Ricketts characterizes dropping the minimum budget reserve from 3% to 2 ½% combined with transferring money from the roads fund a gimmick.
“That’s a budget gimmick to allow us to balance the budget to essentially allow for $40 million more in spending,” according to Ricketts.
Ricketts cut an additional half a percentage point from most state agencies. He also cut another half a percent from the University of Nebraska system, the state colleges, and the community colleges.
In total, Ricketts made about 100 line-item vetoes.
“I guess if you want to call 2 ½% a gimmick, so be it,” Sen. John Stinner, chair of the Appropriations Committee, said when asked by reporters for his reaction to the governor’s statement.
The move to lower the budget minimum reserve freed up approximately $42 million to partially offset an additional projected drop in state revenue totaling $50 million.
Stinner said his committee simply wanted to avoid deeper cuts.
“Yeah, we used a half a percent to help pad it a little bit and make it work,” according to Stinner.
Legislators approved a transfer of $15 million each year of the biennium budget from the roads fund, a total of $30 million. The governor restored $7 ½ million each year.
Now, the budget battle shifts to the Appropriations Committee, which will review the line-item vetoes and make a recommendation to the full legislature. Lawmakers could override the governor and restore the funding.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]