A compromise has been reached and a confrontation with the governor avoided on legislation to increase federal aid to poor families in Nebraska.
Gov. Pete Ricketts shocked lawmakers when he vetoed Legislative Bill 89, blocking an increase in Aid to Dependent Children for nearly 6,000 Nebraska families.
Though Ricketts spiked the bill, he left open a door for compromise.
The sponsor of LB 89, Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, took advantage of the opportunity, seeking a way forward to address the governor’s concerns about her bill’s sustainability while addressing the fact that families receiving ADC hadn’t seen an increase in aid since 1985.
Campbell agreed to reduce the increase proposed in her legislation from 60% to 55%. The aid also will be tied to the rate of inflation through the Consumer Price Index.
“So, that means that the family will get an increase this year, but we will steadily meet inflation going forward, so we should not fall 30 years behind again,” Campbell tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.
The practical effect of the legislation would be that a Nebraska family of three receiving aid would get around $72 more a month.
Nebraska budgets for about 6,400 families a year, yet rarely distributes federal aid for that number. Normally, according to Campbell, about 5,900 families receive the aid.
Over the years, Nebraska has accumulated a reserve totaling $68 million.
Gov. Ricketts expressed concern that the increase contained in the bill could drain that reserve in less than 10 years. The adjustments agreed to by Campbell, should reduce, but not eliminate that accumulation of federal block grant funds in 10 years.
Campbell points out that one in every five children in Nebraska live in poverty, according to federal standards. She sees an increase in aid as an investment in children; a smart investment by the state.
“Children living in poverty are at much greater risk of ending up in the child welfare system,” Campbell says, adding that it costs the state much more to pay foster parents to care for children than to keep them in their home.
The Unicameral approved LB 89 on a 30-15 vote, which would have been just enough votes necessary to override the governor’s veto. Campbell will push forward with the compromise and not seek a veto override.
The compromise should come up for debate in the next couple of weeks.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]