Gov. Dave Heineman announces vetoes (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
Gov. Dave Heineman on Saturday vetoed $65 million from the budget passed by the Legislature, and suggested lawmakers give part of that back to taxpayers in a credit against their property taxes.
The governor took all five days allowed by the state constitution to consider the budget bills passed by the Legislature last Monday, and announced his vetoes in a rare Saturday news conference. See the governor's letters detailing his vetoes here, here and here.
Among the biggest reductions he made were $12 million towards an eventual $78 million renovation of the Capitol’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. He said that big an item should be considered in the first year of the two-year budget cycle, not midway through it. He also vetoed $2.5 million for fountains in the Capitol’s interior courtyards.
Heineman took $10 million out a job training fund he said is not needed at this time. He took $7 million out of the $17 million given to the Game and Parks Commission to catch up on deferred maintenance. And he took $7 million away from juvenile services, saying the program is projected to underspend its appropriation for this year by $8 million.
Heineman suggested lawmakers take $25 million of the money he cut and use it to increase an existing property tax credit program. "Providing an additional $25 million in property tax relief for Nebraska homeowners, farmers, ranchers and small business owners can be accomplished in the remaining days of the Legislature if they make property tax relief a priority. The choice is very clear: property tax relief or new spending," he said.
Sen. Heath Mello, chairman of the Appropriations committee, said many of the items vetoed by the governor were one-time expenditures out of the cash reserve, whereas the property tax credit was more ongoing spending. "I’m proud to be part of Legislature that understands that some state priorities can’t fit on a bumper sticker. And the way we approached our fiscal policy was to utilize one-time funds for one-time deferred maintenance or one-time expenditures. It appears the governor doesn’t share that same philosophy," he said.
Mello said the Appropriations Committee will meet Monday afternoon to decide whether to recommend overriding Heineman’s vetoes.