Last Monday Governor Ricketts used his line item veto to pare down the State’s biennial budget. This step was necessary due to decreasing revenues coming into the State’s General Fund. State revenues have been down 11.4% overall for the year. Last week the State Legislature upheld each of the Governor’s line item vetoes. Because I believe even more cuts may be coming later this year, I voted to uphold each of the Governor’s line item vetoes.
After analyzing the Governor’s cuts to the budget, though, I became concerned about the impact that these cuts might have on our nursing homes and other critical programs for those who are most in need. So, I investigated the matter for myself. After talking with the Governor, I have since been assured that his budgetary cuts won’t have any adverse effects on our nursing homes. The Governor’s cuts were made to a block appropriation (a lump sum) for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Consequently, DHHS will not be reducing funding for our nursing homes; instead, areas have been identified where these cuts may be applied on peripheral programs without any debilitating effects on our nursing homes.
The Governor also cut $11.8 million in Medicaid spending for each of the next two fiscal years. This amounts to a 1.40% reduction in Medicaid spending. However, this will not mean that providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions. Again, the cuts were made to a block appropriation for Medicaid spending in the biennial budget. So, when Calder Lynch, the Medicaid Director, testified before the Health & Human Services Committee on May 18, he assured the committee members that Heritage Health would continue to fund all of their programs and services.
The situation is similar for the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Governor Ricketts’ vetoes amount to a 2.12% reduction for each of the next two fiscal years for the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DD). DD received the largest decrease, so it has been charged with the responsibility of managing their programs within their appropriated funds while minimizing adverse effects to critical services and without limiting access to programs for eligible individuals and families. They are now looking for ways to cut spending without eliminating these programs or services.
The Division of Behavioral Health will get a 1.62% reduction for each of the next two fiscal years. Again, this should not be misconstrued as across-the-board reductions. The Division of Behavioral Health will make cuts in non-core programs, such as training, special projects, initiatives, and administrative costs. Critical services will remain intact and will continue to be funded.
Finally, the Division of Children and Family Services will receive a 0.38% reduction for each of the next two fiscal years. This will not result in across-the-board rate reductions. Instead, Children and Family Services (CFS) will manage their appropriated funds in ways which minimize adverse effects to their programs and services. For instance, CFS plans to change how it administers drug testing contracts in order to garner enough savings to survive the Governor’s line item veto.
As you can see, while the Governor made several necessary cuts to our State’s biennial budget by exercising his power of the line item veto, none of these cuts will have any adverse effects on essential programs and services for those who need them. Instead, each of the departments named above are finding ways to cut spending without eliminating essential programs or compromising the quality of their services. I believe this will be good for Nebraska. In the end our State Government will be run with a higher degree of efficiency.