The Nebraska State Board of Education will consider a resolution this week calling for the repeal of the "unfunded mandates" of federal health care reform.
The resolution, proposed by board member Bob Evnen, comes on the heels of a letter sent to education leaders by Gov. Dave Heineman urging them to support repeal of the federal reform or risk losing state education funds.
"If you sit silently by, I am going to assume that your lack of action is tacit support for increased Medicaid funding and the likely reduction in funding for education," Heineman wrote in letters sent to five state education organizations last week.
Evnen said he asked that the resolution be added to the board's agenda not because of pressure from the governor, but because he agrees that the health care reform act will be a "terrible financial drag" on the state's budget.
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The governor's letter, he said, brought it to education leaders' attention but he did his own research.
"I've thought, independent of the governor, that health care reform and other spending bills from Washington have been a catastrophe," he said. "I think that we have some obligation to confront it and discuss it."
In addition to sending a letter to the state Department of Education and Commissioner Roger Breed, Heineman sent letters to the Nebraska State Education Association, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, the Nebraska Association of School Boards, University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken and the Board of Regents.
The State Board of Education will discuss the proposed resolution at its Wednesday work session and could vote on it Thursday during the board meeting.
The proposed resolution says the federal health care reform contains unfunded mandates that will require Nebraska to increase state spending on Medicaid by between an estimated $526 million and $766 million over the next decade.
They are the figures cited in Heineman's letter, based on an independent study by Millman Inc., an independent actuarial firm.
Other national studies have shown lower additional costs.
But Evnen said he believes Millman, a nationally recognized actuary, is as reliable an analysis as any available.
He said Heineman isn't the one creating the problem.
"It's not the governor creating the financial distress we have to confront," he said. "It's the federal government. It's in part the health care reform act."
Reach Margaret Reist at 402-473-7226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.