Monday, May 30, 2005

Heineman Targets Enemies: Bruning & the Poor

by Kyle Michaelis
Catching up with some news from last week, Gov. Dave Heineman made some miniscule but very telling cuts to the Legislature's $6+ billion budget. Heineman cut a grand total of $8 million from the budget, such a pithy, token amount from so monstrous a figure that those programs targeted must almost have done something personal to make Heineman hate them. There's certainly no principle at stake.

In the case of his vetoing $134,000 to improve salaries for attorneys in the State Attorney General's Office, this idea of Heineman targeting enemies might hold especially true. AG Jon Bruning has publicly endorsed Heineman's opponent in the Republican primary, Tom Osborne, likely in an attempt to position himself as Osborne's successor if Dr. Tom follows through on his promise to serve only one term in the Governor's Mansion.

Bruning is still in his 30s and doesn't seem to mind waiting in the wings for another 4 years, surely hoping his early loyalty will be remembered and rewarded with what could be a huge endorsement from Osborne when the time comes. That leaves Heineman out in the cold. His response? Cut the pay raises intended to make the salaries of Bruning's lieutenants competitive. The Lincoln Journal-Star elaborated:
Osborne, who is running against Heineman for governor next year, was a special guest at an April fund-raiser for Bruning, who is running for re-election. And Bruning does think the former Husker football coach turned congressman would be the best governor.

"I am proudly supporting Tom Osborne. I am not against Dave Heineman, but I think with Tom Osborne we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity. To have a leader of his vision is unusual. He can take this state to a higher place," Bruning said on Friday.

"I hope the vetoes had nothing to do with the race, but if that's the price I pay for supporting Tom, so be it."
Not a bad retaliatory move if I might say so myself. Lower wages and the increased incompetence assumed to go along with it in the Attorney General's office are bound to catch up with Bruning eventually.

As for Heineman's other cuts, it seems quite obvious who they're targeted at: the poor, children, and anyone unfortunate enough to be caught up in the penal system. According to the World-Herald, his cuts include:
• $1.1 million for additional probation officers to ease caseloads and help the state keep nonviolent offenders out of prison.

• $562,500 for expanding the state's regional child advocacy centers, which offer safe places to help abused children.

• $656,200 for providing health care to uninsured Nebraskans at the state's five federally qualified community health centers.

• $3 million for helping Omaha and Lincoln operate their mass-transit systems.

• $1.2 million for financial aid to needy college students.

• $817,000 for reimbursing counties to house prisoners before their convictions.
Got to hand it to Heineman...he's certainly earning his street cred as a Republican, happily handing out hundreds of millions to corporations with the "Nebraska Advantage" tax break program while standing in the way of improved services for Nebraska's least advantaged. Right here, he's gone out of his way to turn a blind eye to our disastrous prison over-crowding, sky-rocketing college tuition, and ever burgeoning numbers of uninsured. Yup, sure sounds like a Republican to me.

What are these people's crime? What have they done to so offend Heineman and draw his ire? For starters, those affected don't vote - and those who do certainly don't vote Republican. It's called playing to his base. Too bad it won't do him a bit of good as he gets steam-rolled by Osborne next year.

Until these petty and inhumane cuts showed Heineman's true colors, I was almost feeling sorry for the guy. Not anymore.


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