Legislators who failed to restore nearly $32.7 million in line-item budget vetoes accuse their opponents of following lockstep with the governor.
Appropriations Committee chair, Sen. John Stinner of Gering, brought the committee recommendation to override a portion of the $56.5 million cut out of the legislature’s budget by the governor.
“We’re finally at the end of this process and it’s been a long one,” Stinner said, opening debate dominated by opponents of the governor’s action.
Some accused Gov. Pete Ricketts of interfering in the legislature’s process.
“This is political hardball, absolute political hardball. I know the governor is really working the body,” Sen. John McCollister of Omaha told colleagues.
McCollister said Ricketts had been calling members and had even sponsored political robo calls in his district.
Hardly any supporters of the vetoes ventured to speak and then only briefly.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha charged it was a strategy straight from the governor’s office.
“Now, all of you have been told to sit and say nothing; do that,” Krist told Ricketts’ supporters.
Others echoed Krist’s sentiment, challenging their colleagues to engage in the debate or, at least, defend their decision to sustain the governor’s vetoes.
Only a couple did.
Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn told colleagues these were hard, difficult votes. Linehan stated the legislature based its budget on the hope that state tax revenues will pick up while the governor based his budget on the hedge that they won’t. Linehan argued that while the state wasn’t broke, it cannot afford to run its reserves any lower.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte suggested that the governor had no choice, because the legislature failed to make the cuts it needed to make.
Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus said, either way, the budget is in sad shape.
“God, what a mess, folks. It’s not small money, but we’re probably taking it from the people who cannot help themselves,” according to Schumacher.
In the end, no budget vetoes were overridden.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:05]