Budget debate continues at the Capitol with legislators turning to the question of whether Gov. Pete Ricketts violated the state constitution by enacting cuts on his own.
Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus suggested the Unicameral should have called itself into special session when it became apparent state revenue was lagging behind the projections upon which the current biennium budget was based.
Or, the governor could have called a special session last year.
Schumacher said during legislative floor debate that instead the governor chose to move forward with cutting the budget appropriated by the legislature; in essence asking the Unicameral for forgiveness rather than permission.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha took it a step further, calling the governor’s action unconstitutional. Krist said the Ricketts Administration had no right to withhold spending appropriated by legislators.
“This is inappropriate. It is unconstitutional and we need to stand up to it now,” Krist told colleagues during floor debate. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say, in no uncertain terms, we’re not going to put up with it.”
Appropriations Committee chair, Sen. John Stinner of Gering, rejected the suggestion.
“The idea that what the governor did is unconstitutional, up to date, right today, is absolutely false,” Stinner countered.
Stinner backs Legislative Bill 22 which seeks legislative approval for $137 million in cuts to the current budget, an effort to ease the pain going into consideration of the next biennium budget.
Lawmakers have to deal with a projected $900 million shortfall in the next two-year budget. Gov. Ricketts has had his administration withhold spending in an effort to soften the blow for the upcoming budget. The governor has conceded he doesn’t have the authority to make cuts on his own. If the Unicameral fails to approve the cuts, the money will be released to state agencies.
The Unicameral has been holding floor debate during the morning and breaking for committee hearings in the afternoon. It has debated LB 22 for the past two mornings. Debate is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning.