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Last day of Nebraska Legislature

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks to senators in April on the Legislature's last day. He said in an interview that he's disappointed senators could not agree on a property tax relief plan.

The fiscal impact of the proposed Medicaid expansion initiative remains a little fuzzy.

Billions of dollars of new federal funding would begin flowing into the state if voters approve the proposal to extend Medicaid coverage to an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans. 

But a billion dollars is not a one-year figure. That's closer to the federal funding figure for two years, or a fiscal biennium. 

The state share of costs is also a little fuzzy at this point.

Supporters and opponents of the initiative are reviewing cost estimates as they prepare for the initiative campaign, assuming the proposal clears a court challenge filed by participants with deep Republican ties. 

Ninety percent of Medicaid funding would come in the form of a federal match with the state paying 10 percent of the costs, according to the evolving Medicaid expansion funding formula that would be in place by the time the new program would begin in Nebraska. 

Also factor in the assumption that all eligible participants would not be enrolled immediately as the program grows toward that estimated 90,000 figure.

Here's some guidance from Josh Henningsen, former legislative staffer who fell just 58 votes short of being one of the two nominees for a seat in the Legislature in May:

Once an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans are covered, the Medicaid funding would be about $567 million a year from the federal government and $63 million annually from the state, Henningsen wrote in a Tweet after examining a legislative fiscal note from 2017.

However, there are some other moving parts that include federal funding of some current state costs, so additional net state funding would actually amount to about $31 million a year, he wrote in analyzing that fiscal estimate.

Henningsen tweeted in an effort to try to clear up some fuzzy media reporting on program funding and costs. Guilty here.

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The governor's monthly call-in radio show veered off the rails last week when Barbara from Gibbon called to confront Gov. Pete Ricketts about his opposition to the Medicaid expansion proposal.

"You're rich," she said. "You don't care. A lot of people are middle-class and poor."

Ricketts responded that Medicaid is designed to assist the disabled, elderly and children and he's concerned that expansion would "dilute the program."

"I hope they don't listen to you," Barbara said.

A few minutes later came a call from an angry man who told the governor: "I heard the woman chewing your ass. You should send two patrolmen to her household and beat the hell out of her."

Ricketts told that caller that he should respect the woman's constitutional right to express herself.

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Finishing up:

* The Republican-connected legal challenge to the Medicaid expansion initiative may be motivated in part by a desire to remove a difficult budget (and policy) challenge from the legislative agenda in what could be the first year of the governor's second term. Same thing happened with the abrupt disappearance of the property tax initiative petition campaign.

* The governor's reaction to a long-awaited increase in state tax receipts: More money for property tax relief, not for state programs and services whose funding has been squeezed by a series of budget reductions. 

* Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha was one of 59 participants in a "presidential leadership scholars program" that was completed last week with a graduation program that featured a conversation with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

* After watching some of the House hearing hammering FBI agent Peter Strzok, I was sorry I did. Sorry to see the caliber and character of some members of the House, sorry to see the posturing, the attempted bullying, the cowardly tactic of not allowing any response to many of the rants, sorry to see their lack of concern for anything but subservient politics.

* With the resignation of Sen. Jim Smith from the Legislature, it would appear that Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson now is acting chairman of the Revenue Committee — he was its vice chairman — as well as chairman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. That's roads and taxes, not bad.

* Mike Flood's statewide news TV channel is up on Spectrum in Lincoln: Channel 98 and 1233 HD. 

* No word yet on whether Fred was impressed with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. When the judge went to Sen. Deb Fischer's office for a pre-confirmation chat, Fred joined them on the couch for a photo. He's a Goldendoodle.

* All-star baseball break with trade deadline to follow; fun times ahead.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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