We spent most of the week discussing the state budget. During the debate there were two main parts of discussion. 1) Title X funding, which is tax dollars that are sent to the states for women’s and low income health services, and 2) the ongoing challenge of how to make up the additional revenue shortfall of around $55 million.
Regarding the first part of the debate, I want to explain why I voted the way I did. There was some language in the budget bill that would have stripped the Title X funding from the budget, even though historically it has been a part of the budget for many, many years. Let me be clear that no Title X money, by federal law, is allowed to go towards abortion services. That being said, however, with the removal of this funding, one traditionally pro-choice health clinic would have lost funding, but so would many low income health clinics that provide services throughout the state. These services are utilized extensively statewide and are sorely needed in some rural areas especially.
In addition to not wanting to see the low income clinics lose their funding, I also had concerns about how this pro-life vs. pro-choice issue was being debated as part of a budget bill, a budget bill that needed to be passed to fund the many programs of our state.
Additionally, I had concerns that if this issue being a part of the budget bill was challenged on its constitutionality, it could cause major issues for us in the future, throwing our budget bill into the courts and tying up the funding of all state programs, possibly shutting down state government.
In an effort to resolve this issue, a motion was made to remove this provision from the state budget bill and move forward with a clean budget, leaving this policy issue to be looked at separately in the future. I voted in support of the motion and also in support of the overall budget. While I understood the premise of those who wanted a certain entity to be defunded, I also didn’t believe this was the right way to go about this.
I have had a few people reach out indicating that they felt I had moved away from my pro-life values. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am pro-life and I will always be pro-life and continue to advocate for pro-life principles. Part of being pro-life is supporting all life, and allowing the low income clinics to continue serve under-privileged clients is one way to support their health and well- being.
The second part of the discussion relating to where to come up with the additional $55 million needed was also challenging. I, like many of my constituents, believe we need to do whatever we can to cut waste and create efficiency in state government. Senator Stinner, chair of appropriations, and his committee have done a great deal of work setting priorities and finding places to reduce spending. Some members of the body strongly believe we need to cut more to make up for the $55 million shortfall. While I agree that we need to continue to look at cuts, I am also concerned that across the board cuts could result in major disruption of critical services. We need to be careful as we proceed and find the right balance of cuts in a prioritized manner, while continuing to fund essential state services. The next few weeks will be challenging, and we will do what we can to make the best decisions we can for our state.
I also want to take a moment to address Senator Linehan’s LB651 and her motion to pull the bill from committee. I supported Senator Linehan’s motion to pull the bill from committee because I believe LB651 is an issue that needs to be discussed by the legislature. That being said, I do not support the bill in its current form and do not plan to vote to advance it. I received many calls and emails regarding this bill, so I wanted to make my position clear.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. David and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance.