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Local View: Nebraska’s war on working families
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Local View

Local View: Nebraska’s war on working families

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Each legislative session, our policymakers dictate the state’s political landscape through bills introduced, cooperation (or lack thereof) with one another and most importantly how they cast their votes.

It may be easy to overlook the governor’s influence in this process. However, Gov. Pete Ricketts opposed many legislative bills this session, but the intensity with which he has targeted efforts to expand support for working families, even at no cost to the state, is egregious.

Despite availability of state funds, it is commonplace for legislators to cite even the most nominal fiscal notes as cause to defeat helpful legislation. And, if other senators dare disagree, they face the threat of the governor’s sourcing and funding of an opponent to challenge their reelection.

State senators should be applauded for demonstrating the political courage to override Governor Ricketts’ vetoes of food and energy assistance. We must continue prioritizing working Nebraskans who deserve a fighting chance.

Research from Holland Children’s Institute shows large majorities of Nebraskans support fast-tracking programs designed to help Nebraskans in crisis due to the pandemic: 79% calling for food assistance; 72% for unemployment assistance and 69% for low-income access to health care.

It is hard to recall a time where the state has projected these revenue gains but done so little to support those who need it most, all on the heels of a global public health and economic crisis.

With strong projected revenue in this latest budget biennium, it is clear -- it is not about the money, and it never has been. Opposition is firmly rooted in the governor’s political agenda and targeting Nebraska’s most vulnerable, hardworking communities and the legislators fighting for them.

From killing protections for meatpacking workers and preventing paid sick and safe leave, to vetoing federally funded expansions of food (LB108) and energy (LB306) assistance, the governor’s actions suggest one’s wealth dictates one’s worth. He has done everything in his power to ensure not a single bill crosses his desk to suggest otherwise.

What has passed with the governor’s blessing? Another $100 million in corporate tax cuts on top of $400 million in corporate tax incentives passed in August 2020 with LB1107. Nearly $1.5 billion in budget appropriations to property tax relief and a few million more in special interest tax exemptions.

These have been forced through the legislative process by the governor and supporters, with no regard for the strong separation of powers existing in our state constitution to maintain nonpartisanship in the Legislature, unique in its effectiveness to uphold the will of Nebraska voters.

This session has proved, once again, big corporations and wealthy landowners are revered and rewarded by Governor Ricketts. Meanwhile, hardworking Nebraskans and their children and families are left in the wake. One might rightfully wonder just who exactly is "the good life" for and how anyone else is supposed to get it.

Hadley Richters is CEO of the Holland Children’s Movement, which is based in Omaha.

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