By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — Gov. Dave Heineman will oppose raises for state lawmakers – which Nebraskans will vote on next month – until lawmakers repeal legislation passed earlier this year allowing the state to pay for prenatal care for illegal immigrants.
Nebraska voters will decide Nov. 6 whether state lawmakers should get a salary increase from the current $12,000 annually to $22,500 per year.
“I’m going to oppose the pay raise because of a fundamental financial principal that I don’t believe taxpayer funds ought to be going to illegals,” the governor told Nebraska Watchdog on Wednesday.
In April, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of the bill, despite heavy lobbying by the governor, whose get-tough stance on illegal immigration helped get him elected governor six years ago.
The bill pitted illegal immigration against pro-life concerns, and most lawmakers chose what they saw as a pro-life stance. The state provided such care for pregnant women for 30 years, up until a couple of years ago. Supporters said the state could end up spending more money on those children who were denied prenatal care. But Heineman said private entities could cover the cost, which he says will be nearly $2 million in the next biennium – money that’s sorely needed for schools for “legal Nebraska kids” and families.
“Now millions of dollars are going to go to illegal immigrants,” he said, “and I’m opposed to that. So I’m going to oppose the pay raise as a matter of principle until they repeal it.”
Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, who sponsored the pay raise bill, said he didn’t understand why the governor would oppose a pay raise to allow people of more modest means to be able to afford to run for the Legislature.
“I don’t understand how that makes any sense whatsoever,” Lautenbaugh said. “I don’t understand that. It’s disappointing.”
He said he didn’t understand why the governor would punish all lawmakers in the future for one vote he didn’t like.
“The veto was overriden with 30 votes,” he said. “That still leaves 19 people that he shouldn’t be too ticked off at.”
Heineman also opposes another proposed constitutional amendment changing lawmakers’ term limits to allow them to serve 12 years, rather than the current eight. He said term limits have brought fresh ideas to the Legislature.
“I think they ought to be eight years for the Legislature and governor,” he said. “That doesn’t cause me as much heartburn as if they were trying to overturn term limits. I’m going to vote against it.”
Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.