Gov. Dave Heineman said today the legislature sent a mixed message this session.
Heineman praised the work the legislature completed on child welfare, economic incentives and a “modest” tax relief package. The governor found the work on the final day of the session less praiseworthy.
Heineman criticized the legislature for overturning two of his vetoes.
His office issued a written statement after the legislature wrapped up the session Wednesday afternoon.
“Today, the majority of the Nebraska Legislature decided their priorities are:
· Providing taxpayer funded benefits to illegal immigrants and
· Increasing the sales tax rate on the citizens of Nebraska.
“I strongly disagree with their decisions. Providing preferential treatment to illegals while increasing taxes on legal Nebraska citizens is misguided, misplaced and inappropriate.”
Heineman said the legislature took positive steps forward in tackling child welfare early in the session and in approving economic incentive packages both to lure business to the state and to retain Nebraska businesses. The legislature also approved a scaled down version of his tax cut package.
“But, then we ended on a note that I think was inappropriate for the state; that we’re going to give taxpayer-funded benefits to illegals and legal Nebraska citizens are likely to get a tax increase,” Heineman told reporters during a news conference in his Capitol office. “To me, that’s misguided and misplaced.”
Heineman had vetoed LB 599, rejecting claims that it was pro-life legislation and, instead, insisting it was providing public benefits to illegal immigrants. The bill extends prenatal care to the poor, regardless of citizenship status. He also vetoed LB 357, stating it made it too easy for cities to raise sales taxes. The bill requires cities to take a sales tax increase to a vote of the people. The legislature mustered just enough votes on both to override the governor’s vetoes.
“To me, they sent a mixed signal,” Heineman stated. “Previously, we’ve had a laser-like focus on education and jobs and we made a lot of progress. I’m worried this is a step backwards.”
Even in approving the governor’s top priority of the session, the legislature failed to give the governor what he requested. The legislature drastically cut Heineman’s $326 million tax cut proposal, removing a provision to eliminate the inheritance tax and to reduce the corporate tax rate as well as eliminating a proposed cut for the state’s highest earners. Many lawmakers expressed concern about whether the state could afford the loss of revenue, claiming the cuts would worsen a projected future deficit. The package that eventually passed totaled $97 million.
“I found it kind of interesting throughout this session that they were worried about the projected shortfall only when it came to tax relief, not about all the money that they were spending.” Heineman stated.
The governor said his disagreements this session with the legislature would not harm his working relationship with the Unicameral next session.
AUDIO: Gov. Dave Heineman evaluates the legislative session. [1 min.]