Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dave Heineman: Corrupting the Young

by Kyle Michaelis
Republican Governor Uses Strong Arm Tactics on Student Leaders

Recently, I wrote about Governor Dave Heineman's bullying and behind-the-scenes manipulation of the 2007 Nebraska Legislature. What we've seen is the work of man who's a seasoned Republican Party operative willing to use every trick he's learned along the way to have his way with the future of our state.

Having bitched (in prison slang) the cowardly majority of state senators by manipulating the committee system and by applying the basest partisan political pressures, Heineman has made a mockery of the legislature's institutional integrity. The man has an agenda, and he's not going to let democracy, our nonpartisan tradition, nor our state Constitution get in the way of that agenda.

Now, though, comes a disturbing example of just how far Heineman is truly willing to go - making threats and promising retribution against the University to force student leaders to do his political bidding. David Solheim, President of the student body at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln explains:
Last week the University of Nebraska Board of Regents voted to increase tuition by six percent. For the 2007-2008 academic year, in-state students will now pay $169.60 per credit hour.

In the interest of accountability and transparency, I feel it is my responsibility as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's student regent to inform students why I voted "yes" for the latest tuition hike.....

In January, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman recommended only a 1.1 percent increase in state funding to the university. Had this recommendation carried, UNL students would be facing tuition increases in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 percent....

Luckily, members of the Legislature were wise enough to up the recommendation to a 4 percent increase in state funding, but that still left [the University] with a deficit of some $9 million. Worse yet, the governor has the ability to line-item veto parts of the state budget and in May it appeared that he might target [the University].

At that point, the four student regents, myself included, met with Heineman and consented that if he did not veto the state appropriation, we would support a tuition increase to cover the $9 million deficit. Heineman followed through, [the University] escaped his vetoes unscathed, and last week all four student regents honored our commitment by voting to increase tuition by 6 percent.
This is, of course, a sad follow-up to last week's report on Heineman's shameless hypocrisy talking about the importance of affordable and accessible higher education after pushing for his Brain Drain Budget throughout the 2007 legislative session.

Heineman has never paid anything but lip service to the fact that many talented young people are being priced out of Nebraska's universities and forced out of the entire state to seek better opportunities elsewhere. From his record, he honestly doesn't seem to give a damn about higher education, though he can pride himself for teaching a lesson to these student leaders in how to abuse their office and pull peoples' strings to achieve their political objectives.

I'm sure those students learned Heineman's lesson quite well. After all, the man is a master. It's just unfortunate more Nebraskans aren't paying attention to our Governor and how he really does business, so the people might learn a thing or two for themselves . . . before it is too late.

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