A new legislative session begins with a new Speaker of the Legislature.
A new legislative session brings new issues as well.
The newly-elected Speaker of the Legislature, Greg Adams of York, says the number-one issue facing a new legislature is always the two-year budget. Within that issue is the issue of whether to expand Medicaid under provisions of the federal healthcare law.
The new law requires the federal government to pay the full cost of expansion for three years. The federal contribution will drop to 90%.
Still, Gov. Dave Heineman opposes expansion, questioning whether the federal government will live up to that promise or will eventually saddle the states with more of the cost.
Adams vows to let the legislature thoroughly debate the possibility of expanding Medicaid.
“It’s not just a fiscal issue. It is an ideological issue. As a result, we are going to spent some time on that,” Adams tells reporters. “And, certainly the governor, it is well within his purview to lay out where he stands on things. Now it’s going to be in the hands of the legislature to ultimately decide.”
Another big budget issue is Heineman’s announced agreement with the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska State College System to raise state appropriations to four-year colleges in exchange for a two-year freeze on tuition.
The budget picture has brightened considerably since the last time the legislature tackled the state’s finances. Two years ago, lawmakers faced a $1 billion shortfall. This year, the shortfall is predicted to be below $200 million.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]