Sunday, January 22, 2006

Andersen's Obvious Oversight

by Kyle Michaelis
Omaha World-Herald institution Harold W. Andersen may no longer be a registered Republican - last year, announcing he was becoming an independent after his disgust over the GOPs exploitation of Terri Schiavo and her family - but I'm sad to report that single act of self-liberation has not been reflected in his thinking and writing.

Today's column offers a good example of the crippling limitations on his still-partisan perspective, whether such partisanship is official or not. After running through some of the enormous expenses on the horizon for the state of Nebraska and hinting at the inadequacy of Gov. Dave Heineman's calls to study them further, Andersen writes:
This is primary election time, and the governor's proposal to reduce taxes has the appearance of greater feasibility if inexpensive studies and delayed action can be substituted for appropriating funds to address problems now.

It also helps to borrow $191 million from the state's cash reserve. The governor's taxcutting budget also depends on optimistic estimates of growth in state tax collections in coming months.

Heineman's performance is probably about what could be expected as he approaches a May primary election showdown with U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, who is challenging Heineman for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

As for Osborne, his call for larger tax reductions than Heineman has proposed is not unexpected but is nonetheless subject to question.

I believe that until the need for tax revenue has been better determined - the need to deal with such things as the meth epidemic and the well-documented malfunctioning of the state foster care system - it is obviously premature for Heineman, Osborne or any state legislator to propose tax-rate reductions.

Osborne's approach to state taxing and spending issues would be more credible if he would offer some evidence of what he calls hundreds of millions of dollars of unnecessary state spending and how he would go about reducing such spending, beyond his expectation that a comprehensive study by experts from the private sector would come up with recommendations.

Let's hope that the Legislature, in which nearly three-fourths of the members are serving their last term, will deal more realistically with state spending needs than we apparently can expect from candidates whose political future, at least for the next four years, will be determined by Republican primary voters some 16 weeks from now.

How sad it is to see an old man so lost to low expectations that he refuses to even look for a better alternative to the irresponsible political pandering of the Republican candidates for governor. He writes of the legislature as the state's last hope for common sense and actual leadership, conveniently forgetting or failing to even realize that there is another candidate for governor in this state asking the same questions as Andersen and pointing out the same weaknesses in Heineman, Osborne, and Co.'s tax-cut proposals.

Mr. Andersen, meet Mr. David Hahn (from Sunday's Lincoln Journal-Star):
As the Republican gubernatorial primary battle rages to a drumbeat of competing tax cut promises, Democratic candidate David Hahn suggests a more “prudent and realistic approach.”

Tax reductions, he said, “always would be on the table in my administration, but I think it’s important to look at things realistically.”

One of the factors that deserves serious consideration, Hahn said, is legislative fiscal analyst Mike Calvert’s conclusion that the state may need a much larger cash reserve to avoid substantial budget cuts or tax increases in the near future.

Careful consideration also ought to be given to future obligations attached to such issues as current and new business tax credits, Medicaid reform and prison overcrowding, Hahn said in a Friday interview.

“Not one Republican is talking about this,” the Lincoln attorney and Internet entrepreneur said....

“How can you talk about tax reductions until you talk about the cost of business incentives? It’s not that I’m against tax credits to (stimulate) business, but we need to know what the costs are.

“And I am not against tax cuts,” Hahn stressed. “They will always be under consideration by me. But one of the reasons I got into this race was I was not hearing reality-based positions on these issues.”

What's the problem here? Andersen writes as if Heineman and Osborne's hijinks are the best voters can expect, yet here's a candidate who's taking the high road, being sensible, and speaking truth and he acts as if Hahn doesn't even exist. What's up with that?

While opinionated and prideful enough that he's never been strictly constrained to the Republican party line, it's clear Andersen has the unfortunate inability to think as anything but the life-long Republican he remains at heart. It's impossible to know whether he fails to mention Hahn and give him credit for being a better, more principled candidate because he doesn't want to say anything nice about a Democrat or simply because he's deaf to the truth when it comes from a Democrat's lips.

Let's just pray the people of Nebraska aren't similarly afflicted - trapped by a partisan allegiance that violates common sense, shatters hope, and can actually bring a man to betray his own intellect.


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