Monday, June 06, 2005

Unicam Wrap-Up: Heineman Prevents Osborne Pay Raise

by Kyle Michaelis
Legislative Bill 683, intended to raise the salaries of Nebraska's constitutional officers to make them comparable to other states in the region, was, as expected, vetoed by Governor Heineman in the waning days of the 2005 session.

This veto upheld a long-standing tradition of Nebraska governors refusing their own pay raise, certainly in large part for electoral concerns. When this last happened a few years back, the legislature actually passed an override of then-Gov. Johanns' veto. This year, a similar override failed, as the Omaha World-Herald reports:
If the governor doesn't want a $29,000 pay raise, the Legislature won't give it to him.

Lawmakers Friday fell five votes short of the 30 needed to override Gov. Dave Heineman's veto of a pay raise for the governor and other constitutional state officeholders starting in 2007.

Legislative Bill 683 would have boosted the governor's salary from $85,000 to $114,000.

Friday was the final day of the Legislature's 2005 session. State Sen. DiAnna Schimek of Lincoln said she planned to try again next year.

The legislation originally passed with 38 votes. Thirteen lawmakers changed their votes after Heineman vetoed the bill....

Schimek and State Sens. Ernie Chambers of Omaha and Elaine Stuhr of Bradshaw argued that Nebraska trails other states in the region in pay for top state officials. The pay raise bill would have put salaries in the middle regionally.

Schimek stressed that the raise would not have applied to current officeholders - only those who win elections in 2006.

Well, there you have it - what kind of sainthood are we expecting from Heineman to approve a pay raise for the man who will almost certainly replace him in office, Tom Osborne?

Nevermind that only Arkansas pays less combined than Nebraska to its top elected officials. Who cares if the lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer and public service commissioners might actually have deserved a raise? Asking Heineman to scratch the back of the man who will vanquish him in battle is perverse. It is simply asking too much. After all, this is a Republican politician we're talking about, not Jesus Christ himself.

As for the legislature's collective change of mind, this sort of deference to an unelected Governor who will likely never be elected doesn't make much sense. If these pay raises were too much at one time (which they were), why didn't they craft a more sensible increase to begin with? Both here and with their own salaries, the state senate seems to have lost all sense of proportion. It makes one wonder whether they really want to see our elected officials paid better or if they intentionally want to see these efforts fail. Anyone got a theory?


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