Heineman tells Omaha to tighten its belt
January 3rd, 2012
Omaha, NE – Nebraska lawmakers are readying for the 2012 legislative session that begins tomorrow Governor Heineman weighed in on his priorities for the state during a conference call with reporters today.
The Governor agreed child welfare reform is certain to be a major topic in this yearâ€™s legislative session. The Nebraska child welfare system has undergone major changes over the last few years, as the state moved to privatize a cumbersome and historically troubled system. But the reforms have not gone as planned. And last month, a legislative committee released its review, along with several recommendations for a total overhaul. Heineman said heâ€™s familiarized himself with the findings.
â€œIâ€™ve read the report three times now,â€ he said. â€œI believe itâ€™s that important, and Iâ€™m trying to make sure I fully understand the concerns of the legislature. Iâ€™ve begun meetings with state senators and other interested stakeholders to see if we can find common ground, to develop a more coordinated, a more collaborative and a more comprehensive approach to what weâ€™re doing with child welfare.â€
Heineman said he wants to continue those discussions before presenting his own plan to move forward.
The Governor also addressed the perennial topic of the state budget. Funds will be a little looser this session than they were last year, when the state was faced with a billion dollar budget gap. But Heineman said if thereâ€™s any extra money to go around, the first priority should be to send it back to the taxpayers. He also addressed a bill likely to be re-introduced in the legislature this year. A priority of the city of Omaha, the proposal would allow cities to increase their sales tax rates â€“ if voters approve. But Heineman said if the bill makes it to his desk, he will veto it.
â€œI am strongly and adamantly opposed to that bill,â€ he said. â€œThat will make us less business friendly in this state. It will be about higher taxes and more spending. The city of Omaha needs to model itself after what weâ€™ve done here in state government. Tighten your belts.â€
The Governor said he will lay out his own priorities for the legislative session by January 12.
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