Monday, April 03, 2006

Heineman Abandons Youth With Budget Vetoes

by Kyle Michaelis
As I predicted in a post Sunday, Gov. Dave Heineman did not fail to disappoint with his disappointing choice to treat the state budget like free advertising to bolster his right-wing credentials.

Still, having fully expected Heineman to make some politically-safe and advantageous (for Heineman) vetoes of state spending, I am utterly appalled and sickened by Heineman's choice of targets - the youth of Nebraska. Quite simply, students and - hence - the future of this state have been victimized by Heineman's vote-grabbing manuever.

The AP reports:
Gov. Dave Heineman issued $23 million in line-item vetoes Monday to the $6.15 billion spending package approved by lawmakers last week.

"I began this legislative session with a call for tax relief and spending restraint, because I believed we had made the necessary investments in our future," Heineman said. "Upholding these reasonable line-item adjustments would be an important step toward increased stability and a state recognition of finite resources."

Lawmakers were expected to vote on overriding the vetoes later this week. . . The main budget bill (LB1060) passed on a 41-7 vote. It takes 30 votes to override a veto....

Among. . . vetoed second-year utility costs were $4 million from the University of Nebraska....

Other vetoes:

• $2 million in new funds for the Nebraska Arts Council.

$1.2 million in additional funds for the Nebraska Scholarship Program.

$2.8 million from the Department of Health and Human Services for its Children's Health Insurance Program.....

$1.38 million to community corrections....

• $2.67 million from the Capitol masonry restoration project.

"If we are to continue on our course toward lower taxes and a more efficient government, state government needs to find effective ways of doing more with less," Heineman said.

It's clear that Heineman's idea of Nebraska doing more with less means having fewer young people, driving as many of them out of state as possible. What else can explain the disgusting manner in which he has singled out student and youth-oriented programs for scorn?

The University of Nebraska is going to need to pay those $4 million in utility costs one way or another. The state legislature had worked out a plan, after years of program cuts and double-digit tuition increases, to keep that burden from falling once again on to the backs of students. Now, Heineman hopes to pass the costs of his gubernatorial campaign (a trivial tax cut and last year's corporate hand-outs) onto them out of spite.

At the same time, as Heineman advocates continued tuition hikes, he's also cut more than $1 million from the Nebraska Scholarship Program. To put it bluntly, Heineman is attempting to screw young people from both ends - not only making their education more expensive but also stripping them of the state resources intended to make sure it remains accessible to those with the most potential and the greatest need.

Surprise, surprise...out of a $6 billion budget, Heineman chose to strip almost another $3 million from what else but the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Need I even mention that the $1.4 million that Heineman wants to take from community corrections would have paid for drug courts and treatment programs that disproportionately serve young Nebraskans? These kids are at-risk of falling into a vicious cycle of drug abuse and crime. Heineman's budget tweaking will leave many to such a sad fate who might have been saved if Nebraska had only fulfilled its commitment to progressive alternatives in the justice system.

Clearly, these cuts are not only shameful; they are stupid! Nebraska's most precious resource is its children, and Heineman has revealed an agenda that will not only send more out-of-state to pursue their education but will also send more to prison. And, let's not forget the children who will suffer and perhaps even die for Heineman's choice to sacrifice their health insurance for his chances at election.

It now falls to the state legislature to rectify and over-ride Heineman's foolish, short-sighted, and potentially disastrous vetoes to the budget. Hopefully, they will show the common sense and understanding of the problems facing Nebraska - both as matters of economics and demographics - making Heineman's vetoes so unforgiveable.

After the Bush Administration's horrible bungling of the response to Hurricane Katrina, the out-spoken artist Kanye West famously declared on national television, "George Bush doesn't care about black people!" Well, after Heineman's budgetary shenanigans, I feel well-justified in declaring "Dave Heineman doesn't care about young people!"

And that means he doesn't give a damn about the future of this state. As evidenced by this action and so many others, the only thing Heineman cares about - the only thing he even thinks about - seems to be winning the Republican primary at any cost, no matter how much of a betrayal it might require.

Of course, anyone whose been listening to Tom Osborne and Dave Nabity on the campaign trail - with their promises of hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to government programs - knows that these screwed-up priorities aren't exclusive to Heineman. In truth, it's the Republican Party that doesn't care about young people.

Their sins are shared - where they are most consistent is in their lack of vision. I fear Nebraska will suffer for that lack of vision until its voters finally wake-up and demand the leadership this state has lacked throughout eight dismal years of one-party Republican domination.


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