Budget vetoes overridden

Lawmakers voted April 1 to override the majority of the governor’s line-item vetoes of the state budget package.

The four bills comprising the nearly $8 billion mid-biennium budget adjustment package were passed last week and sent to Gov. Dave Heineman. The governor vetoed approximately $65 million in general, federal and cash funds from three of the bills.

Heineman vetoed nearly 60 line items from 32 program sections of LB905, the mainline budget bill, including:
• $11.7 million in Nebraska capital construction funds for the first year of the State Capitol heating, ventilation and air conditioning system renovation project;
• $10 million in general funds to the Job Training Cash Fund;
• $7.4 million in general funds to the state Supreme Court for a juvenile services project contingency program;
• $7.4 million in cash reserve funds to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for state park deferred maintenance;
• $2.6 million in general funds for developmental disability provider rate adjustments; and
• $1.5 million in general funds for a state ward permanency pilot project.

Among other vetoes were the following transfers authorized in LB906: $12.5 million to a state Department of Motor Vehicles fund to replace a vehicle title and registration system and $1.1 million of a $21 million transfer to the Water Sustainability Fund.

Appropriations Committee chairperson Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha filed the motion to override and said the committee chose to attempt to overcome vetoes in all but nine sections of LB905. The budget package that the Legislature sent to the governor addressed a broad range of priorities, he said, including funding behavioral health programs and addressing deferred maintenance needs at state parks and the State Capitol building.

“The committee feels [the budget] represents important priorities of the committee and the Legislature as a whole,” Mello said.

Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy offered an amendment to remove from the override motion funding for courtyard fountains for the State Capitol, saying the project could wait until Nebraskans have received meaningful property tax relief.

“However beautiful they may be to have in our courtyards, I think it’s a mistake to spend $2.5 million out of our cash reserve for these fountains,” McCoy said.

Sen. John Nelson of Omaha opposed the amendment. He said striking a one-time appropriation from the cash reserve to fund the fountains would not help with property tax relief, adding that the fountain cost would equal approximately $2.86 for every person who filed an individual tax return in the state.

“We can afford to do it at this time,” Nelson said.

The McCoy amendment failed on a vote of 10-25.

McCoy offered a second amendment that would have removed from the veto override motion $11.7 million in funding for the first phase of upgrading the Capitol’s heating and cooling system. He said more study should be done before starting on the multi-year project.

“We’re talking about embarking on at least … a $77 million project without waiting for a full analysis of the potential ramifications of this,” he said.

Mello opposed the amendment, saying the project has been extensively studied over several years and should begin as soon as possible given the risk of system failure in the historic building.

“There was more analysis done on this than arguably anything else that’s been done in the Capitol,” he said.

The amendment failed 8-33.

McCoy withdrew a third amendment that would have removed from the override motion the $7.4 million in general funds for the Nebraska Supreme Court’s juvenile services project.

Mello’s designated motion to override the governor’s vetoes in LB905 was adopted on a 37-11 vote. Senators then voted 39-9 to override the vetoes of LB906 and LB130.

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