Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dave Heineman's Funny Idea of Sacrifice

by Kyle Michaelis
The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Nebraskans will get "meaningful and sustainable and permanent" tax relief this year, Gov. Dave Heineman predicted Friday.

Speaking to the Nebraska Tax Research Council's annual meeting, Heineman voiced confidence that he and the Legislature would reach agreement on a tax cut plan before lawmakers go home at the end of May.

"The question is not whether we're going to get tax relief, it's just what kind," Heineman said....

Heineman said he is pursuing tax cuts as part of a long-term strategy for attracting and keeping more young people in the state....

The Republican governor told the group that controlling state spending is essential to making tax cuts possible. He said he believes he has support from the public, even if it means saying "no" to a number of spending requests.

"I don't think there's a person in Nebraska who isn't willing to sacrifice in the short term for their son or daughter's future," he said.
Sounds good, Mr. Governor. There's just one problem - short-changing higher education is one of the essential components of Heineman's plan to control state spending. So, instead of asking the people of Nebraska to sacrifice for their children's future, what Heineman's really doing is sacrificing our children's future to fund massive tax cuts for the upper-class.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
Tuition will go up. Academic programs will be cut. And everyone will feel a bit more stressed out.

At least, that’s what state and community college leaders say will happen if the Legislature doesn’t grant them the dollars they say they desperately need.

Monday, they got a chance to plead their cases before the budget-crafting Appropriations Committee, nearly two months after Gov. Dave Heineman proposed funding allocations that were far less than what the higher education world had hoped for.

“If we want to maintain rural Nebraska, we have to make sure those students have access to our institutions,” Nebraska State College System Chancellor Stan Carpenter told committee members.

The state colleges, with a current state allocation of $40.9 million, had requested funding increases of 12.3 percent and 6 percent the next two years.

Heineman gave them 2.1 percent and 2.3 percent increases.

If his recommendations stand, the state colleges — which have campuses in Chadron, Wayne and Peru — would have to raise tuition 18 percent next year alone to generate enough revenue to help cover fixed costs like faculty salary increases, utilities and office supplies, Carpenter said.
That's what Nebraska's state colleges have to say. Meanwhile, the University system chimes-in:
NU is facing a tough battle for precious state dollars as Gov. Dave Heineman stands firm on his goal to increase spending by just 3.8 percent.

Originally, NU requested funding increases of 6.5 percent and 4 percent in the next two years, funds [NU President J.B.] Milliken and others said were necessary to maintain competitive faculty salaries, invest in priority programs and keep tuition reasonable.

Heineman proposed 1.1 percent and 2.2 percent increases, amounts he said would allow for growth but keep spending in check.

Appropriations Committee members appear to be slightly more sympathetic to NU — they’re leaning toward bumping funding increases up to 2.1 percent and 3.2 percent in the next biennium — but Milliken said that’s still not enough.

Such small increases, he said, won’t even cover NU’s unavoidable expenses, like faculty salaries, utilities and equipment maintenance.

Those alone would require funding increases of 5.7 percent and 5 percent, he said.

If the committee sticks with its current numbers, he warned, tuition increases would be more than the 5 percent jump he’s shooting for, and far more than average Nebraska families can handle.
Of course, higher education is only one front in the competition for scarce resources inherent to the budgeting process. This particular budget battle is probably the most deserving of the public's attention and outrage, though, because it offers such a clear example of Gov. Heineman's shameless hypocrisy.

You can not reconcile Heineman's rhetoric with the true priorities his plan actually reveals. While claiming "I don't think there's a person in Nebraska who isn't willing to sacrifice in the short term for their son or daughter's future," Heineman's plan forces astonomical tuition hikes and program cuts asking sacrifice of no one but students and their families.

When Nebraska should be focused on increasing the accessibility and affordability of higher education, Heineman has completely blinded himself to higher education's obvious and inextricable link to our state's future economic well-being. Rather than asking citizens to sacrifice for this cause, he asks for nothing but our silence while he sacrifices our children and their futures to fund his tax cut proposal.

From the evidence, the only future on Heineman's mind is his own political future. He's promising hundreds of millions of dollars to those currently in Nebraska's top tax bracket while short-changing a population too young to vote or - at least - too young to have much of a say.

Sort of a funny idea of "sacrifice", wouldn't you say?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good article on Heineman, Kyle. I must say, however, that for some reason, Heineman articles don't generate much discussion here. It's as if the free pass most of Nebraska's media gives to him is shielding him from any criticism. I wonder what would happen if you replaced Heineman with Hagel. I suppose I could offer up something substantive here, but I just wanted to point that out.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

It hasn't been lost on me that all my writing about Heineman and about the tax cut plans in general fails time and again to generate reader interest - at least, if comments are to be held as any indicator. If I were writing for advertising revenues, I'd have been fired long ago or ordered to get off the subject.

If people really care more about Hagel's presidential plans, that's just fine and dandy. But, so long as I'm running this site, it's going to be about issues that are actually important to the future of Nebraska.....even if I am just ranting to myself.

But, hey, thanks for trying to make me feel like someone else might actually give a damn.

Anonymous queen b said...

I don't believe that people care more about Hagel's issues over Heinemans, perhaps tax plans are just beyond those of us who have successfully avoided math through our academic careers :)

Also, the way i see it, Heineman is just walking the path that is layed before him. The man has no...ablility or permission to act on his own accord. Like you have said, he is a good politician, but that isn't always good for nebraska. He wants his tax packaged to emerge from Revenue and his supporters or as i like to call them "puppet masters" will chalk that up to a success for the republican party.
Heineman, along with every other elected official, is praising the drive to lower property taxes. But i was speaking with some NSEA members and what about college funding? They aren't going to raise their funding, and instead...that's just going to lead to an increase in locally derived property it's a shift of blame from state to the colleges and localities.
Solutions aren't what needs to come from this tax package, more so just a plan. No body likes taxes...except for me and a few economists.
Ok, i'll get off my soap box now. Kyle, i know what you mean when you say you feel like you go off on a rant :)


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