Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman announced Saturday he will not run for the U.S. Senate next year, and also announced his budget vetoes.
Heineman’s Senate announcement ends months of speculation that started when Republican Senator Mike Johanns announced in February he would not seek reelection. Heineman, who took over from Johanns in 2005, was considered the odds-on favorite for the Republican nomination next year. At a Saturday afternoon news conference, he discussed his decision. "At the end of the day there were two issues that were critical to me. Number one I wanted to continue my focus as governor on education and jobs and particularly tax relief and tax reform from now through the 2014 legislative session," he said. Secondly, I have a passion for being governor of this state. I do not have the same passion for being in the United States Senate."
The governor also announced his budget vetoes, totaling about $44 million. Of that, about $7.8 million was in state general funds – one tenth of one percent of the $7.8 billion budget passed by the Legislature for the next two years. The largest single veto concerned Medicaid. "I am vetoing $28 million in state and federal funding for fiscal year 2014 for a new Medicaid computer system, because the Department of Health and Human Services needs to be focused on the challenges of implementing the federal health care law and providing better support services for ACCESS Nebraska," he said. ACCESS Nebraska is the state’s online benefit enrollment system.
The Medicaid computer system would be paid for mostly from federal funds. Heineman stressed he was just delaying it for a year. But Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said that might not be a good idea. "The reality is this: that our state is at a crisis moment right now to repair or reform or build a new MMIS (Medicaid Management Information System)... It’s dependent upon the future of our own state’s ability to be able to manage health care costs as well as provider costs to try to ensure we provide Nebraskans the most efficient, affordable form of health care possible And having an antiquated computer system which increases the cost of health care is not something anyone of us wants to see moving forward," Mello said.
Mello said the Appropriations Committee will meet Tuesday morning to discuss which budget vetoes to recommend the Legislature override.