Lawmakers override Gov’s prenatal, sales tax vetoes
April 18th, 2012
Lincoln, NE – The Legislature overrode Gov. Dave Heineman’s vetoes of prenatal care for illegal immigrants, and possible city sales tax increases. But they sustained his veto against betting on so-called historic horse races.
The debate over providing prenatal care to illegal immigrants has captured national attention. Lawmakers returned to the subject today in deciding whether or not to override Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto.
Among those supporting the override was Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist. “When prenatal care is denied, we know that it’s the baby — the unborn child – that bears the full cost of that tragic decision,” Nordquist said. “It’s not the person who broke the law to begin with. It’s the unborn child. The most innocent of human life. That’s where the injustice is.”
Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy opposed the override. McCoy recounted what a young constituent had said to him about the possibility of his tax dollars being used for illegal immigrants. “He talked about how difficult a time they’ve had — as they’ve added several children to their family in the last few years – how difficult it’s been to pay for health care,” he said. “To pay for these prenatal services that we’re talking about. And then he said ‘How can we justify that? We’re citizens of Nebraska. We’re trying to work hard to pay for our family. How is it possible that our tax dollars could be used in this manner?”
After about an hour of debate, lawmakers voted 30-16 to override the veto.
Lawmakers also overrode the Governor’s veto of a city tax bill. That would allow municipalities to increase their local sales tax from the current top rate of 1.5 percent to a new maximum of two percent to fund infrastructure projects. Any increase would require approval by a vote of the residents, a point stressed by Scottsbluff Sen. John Harms.“The beauty about all of this legislation is – the simple fact is – it belongs in the hands of the people,” Harms said. “And I believe anytime you can turn a tax increase to the people I believe that the right decisions will be made.”
But Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said not everyone who would pay the taxes would get to vote. “We talk about local options,” Bloomfield said. “Well, it is local option if you happen to live in town. If you live out in the country and take your tractor or your combine, whatever, into a dealer that lives in town, has his implement dealership in town, you face a $10,000 bill, you get to spend an extra $500 on taxes. That’s not a local option for that farmer.”
Before a proposed tax increase goes to voters, it would have to be put on the ballot by at least 70 percent of the local governing board, like a city council. Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, chief sponsor of the bill, said it was a matter of trusting local officials to lead their communities on important projects.
“They’re saying ‘give us this authority,’” he said. “We may not use it tomorrow; it may be five years from now. But give us this authority so we can continue to be great.”
But Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont didn’t think much of requiring a supermajority of the city council to put a tax increase on the ballot. “You’re giving a political body another way to tax,” Janssen said. “When you give a political body another way to tax, they find a way to tax.”
The vote to override the governor’s veto was 30-17, just reaching the number required.
Gov. Heineman offered a curt response to the Legislature’s overrides. In a brief statement, he said lawmakers have decided their priorities are: “Providing taxpayer funded benefits to illegal immigrants and increasing the sales tax rate on the citizens of Nebraska.”
Heineman declined to deliver a speech to mark the final day in the legislative session, as is customary. But in the statement, he said he strongly disagrees with lawmakers’ decisions, calling them “misguided, misplaced and inappropriate.” He has also scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning.
Lawmakers were unable to override the governor’s veto on historic horseracing, rejecting the override by one vote. The bill would have allowed betting at the state’s racetracks on races that have already been run, shown on video devices with the identifying information about the race removed. Supporters said increased profits to the tracks would help save live racing and finance a new track in Lincoln.
Opponents, including the governor, said the bill represents an expansion of gambling. And Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery said the bill would not work. “This expanded form of gambling will not save the industry,” Avery said. “Horseracing has to come up with ways to save itself. It has to make itself more attractive to people who wish to gamble.”
Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh said the bill was the horseracing industry’s idea for how to save itself, and the jobs that depend on it. “This will save this industry,” Lautenbaugh said. “This will save thousands of jobs in Nebraska. This will save the livelihoods of people throughout the state – throughout your districts. And I know you’ve heard from them. I have too. I have probably the least rural district you could have, and I’m hearing from people on this that live in my district and say ‘Please, please help these people.’”
Senators voted 29-20 for the override motion, one vote short of what it needed.