Gov. Dave Heineman has laid out his priorities for this legislative session. State lawmakers have a mixed reaction.
A proposal to squeeze between $370-and-500 million from the state budget to cut property and income taxes was the main feature of the speech as Heineman declared high taxes the top issues facing the state.
Under the governor’s proposal, $220 million would be trimmed from the state cash reserve, leaving it at $500 million. Another $370 million could be made available over the next three years if state revenue continues at its present pace.
The governor says that would allow the legislature to cut taxes without cutting any services or risking the state’s financial health.
The proposal doesn’t impress Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, the Appropriations Committee chairman.
“That kind of hope and pray economic theory, I’m afraid, is something that could set the state back for years to come if we try to adopt it,” Mello tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Mello says the Nebraska legislature has paid for tax cuts up front in the past, a practice that he says has paid off. He prefers the state cash reserve be closer to $650 million that $500 million. It is estimated to grow to $722 million.
Heineman reiterated his opposition to expanding Medicaid under the federal health insurance law during the speech. He expressed an openness to talking with the legislature and others on prison reform.
Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Greg Adams of York, agrees those are the issues that have gained attention at the start of the session.
“There will be other things that will rise to the surface of this session that we didn’t really anticipate to be issues,” Adams tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Adams says the governor has had his say, now it’s time for the legislature to get to work on its priorities.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]