State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, a Democrat who wants Governor Ricketts’ job, told colleagues while debate centered on whether restrictions should be placed on the federal funding, virtually no debate took place on core budget issues.
“We’re stuck on something and you know why we’re stuck here?” Krist asked during budget debate. “Because Pete’s over there laughing at you. He doesn’t want us to discuss this budget. The governor does not want us to discuss this budget. He wants us to be tied up on this issue.”
Title X federal funding pays for family planning services, cancer screenings, even testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; mainly for the poor, mainly for women. It totals less than two million dollars in the $8.8 billion state budget.
Yet, the language inserted by Gov. Ricketts attracted the vast majority of debate Tuesday evening. Ricketts wants restrictions placed on the funding to prevent any of the federal dollars from flowing to clinics which perform abortions.
At present, Title X dollars go to 42 clinics in Nebraska, three of which perform abortions. They serve approximately 28,000 Nebraskans. A state audit suggests one of the clinics operated by Planned Parenthood co-mingled the federal funds.
Critics of the language say it is directly aimed at depriving Planned Parenthood of federal money. The governor insists Planned Parenthood can qualify under the restrictions as long as it separates its clinics which perform abortions from clinics providing Title X services.
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln claimed legislators couldn’t discuss other aspects of the budget, because women’s health care was at stake.
“Let’s continue to blow up our budget,” Pansing Brooks told colleagues. “Everyone knew this was going to blow up the budget and yet they persisted.”
The budget bills have advanced to the second round, during which the debate can be re-engaged.
State lawmakers have given preliminary approval to steps which would shore up a
$173 million revenue shortfall made worse by $83 million dollars in increased expenses, primarily to fund Child Welfare Services. The package advancing would transfer $100 million from the state cash reserves, the so-called Rainy Day Fund, and sweep $16 million from various state agency cash fund balances. It also imposes a 1% budget cut for higher education in the next fiscal year and a 2% across-the-board cut to state agencies. State aid for public schools and the Department of Correctional Services will not be cut.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]