Legislature overrides some of Heineman's budget vetoes

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May 28, 2013 - 6:10pm

Nebraska lawmakers on Tuesday overrode about one-third of the spending Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed out of their budget for the next two years. But they declined to override some of his other cuts.

Last week, the governor vetoed about $44 million of spending approved by the Legislature. Tuesday, senators considered how much of that spending they wanted to restore. The Appropriations committee recommended restoring about $14.5 million, and senators followed that recommendation.

On a vote of 32-5, they restored a series of cuts, including $400,000 for court appointed special advocates for abused and neglected children and $375,000 for raises for county court employees that advocates say are needed to catch up to other state employees.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers tried to persuade senators to restore about $350,000 Heineman took out of the budget for the office of State Auditor Mike Foley. In his veto message, Heineman noted that $64,000 of the money would have provided larger raises to auditor employees than other state employees, adding that the need and justification for that "is not apparent."

Foley has done a number of hard-hitting audits, particularly of the Department of Health and Human Services. Chambers said he is doing a good job, and is fair. "He is keeping us informed if we want to be informed. And I don’t think there can be anybody who can say that he has played favorites," either in going after or backing away from audit targets, Chambers said.

Chambers’ motion to override got support from 24 senators, but it needed 30, so the cuts to the auditor’s office remain. Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said later that he thought committee members all had personal priorities for what should be overridden, and the cuts to the auditor’s office fell to the bottom of that list.

There was no attempt to override the largest veto by the governor -- more than $25 million, mostly in federal funds, for a new Medicaid computer system. Heineman said that project could be delayed.

Senators did try to override another veto, of $185,000 for a railroad track inspector, but that failed on a vote of 18-25. Late Tuesday afternoon, they did vote 34-5 to override $4 million worth of capital construction vetoes. That included restoring $3 million to begin work on a new nursing college building in Lincoln for the University of Nebraska.

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