Lawmakers have advanced an adjustment to the state budget, but not before critics of Gov. Dave Heineman’s $326.6 million tax cut proposal question how it would impact future budgets.
The Unicameral has advanced LB 968 after approving an amendment (AM 2123) that replaces the original bill. The bill restores 1 ½% of the Medicaid cuts approved a year ago at a cost of $9.7 million to increase reimbursement to Medicaid providers, such as doctors and hospitals. After funding the required 3% cash reserve, $17.6 million would be left. That total dwindles to $6 million if the legislature gives final approval to bills it has advanced, which requires increased spending.
Those low totals provided the opening for critics in the Unicameral to make their case that the state cannot afford the governor’s tax cut package. Projections for the next fiscal cycle simply fueled the fire as floor debate on the budget bill veered toward the tax cut proposal.
Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha pressed Appropriations Committee Chairman Lavon Heidemann of Elk Creek about his opinion of projections that if the governor’s plan is adopted an estimated $460 million deficit could balloon to $600 million.
“Do you consider that prudent?” Lathrop asked.
Heidemann paused, and then stated, “That’s a good question.”
Before he could continue, Lathrop interrupted, “Well, maybe it’s a difficult question, because it’s also loaded with politics.”
Earlier, the Revenue Committee barely approved a scaled-back version of the governor’s plan and sent it to the full legislature for debate.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]
AUDIO: Appropriations Committee Chairman Lavon Heidemann introduces budget bill [10 min.]
AUDIO: Sen. Lathrop questions Chairman Heidemann during budget debate [5 min.]