A long-time critic of Gov. Dave Heineman pledges to work with the governor this legislative session now that he chairs the legislative Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha doesn’t sound like a person who has clashed with Governor Heineman over the years.
“There are a lot of opportunities, I think, for some shared common ground and some shared state priorities through the budget and that’s my priority focus right now,” Mello says.
It is a good time to Appropriations Committee chairman or, at least, it is a better time.
The state economy remains strong, pushing state revenue higher. State lawmakers have had to make budget cuts the past four years. Budget increases have been proposed this year.
An initial review pleases Mello. The governor has proposed increases to public schools, higher education, even state parks, over the next two years.
“From the appropriations side, I think it’s a good start,” according to Mello. “I think there is going to be a lot of opportunities for us to share those priorities.”
What is not in the budget might be more contentious that what is in the budget.
Heineman, a strong opponent of expanding Medicaid, has included no money to expand under provisions of the federal healthcare law. Mello says any analysis of expansion must include not just projected costs to the state, but the benefits expansion would bring Nebraska.
As for the governor’s proposal to eliminate the state income tax and offset the lost revenue by eliminating certain sales tax exemptions, Mello is non-committal. He says it’s too early to render judgment on the proposal.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]