Hughes among veto supporters
McCOOK, Neb. -- District 44 State Sen. Dan Hughes was among a block of some 20 state senators who successfully backed Gov. Pete Ricketts' $56.5 million in line-item budget vetoes earlier this week. The contentious budget fight left the third-year senator ready for a break, who said he was more than ready to be heading home Friday, while reminding constituents unhappy with the end result that the state budget was still increasing spending over the prior year.
"Yesterday was a tough day. I received many emails from hospital administrators, staff members and family members not wanting to see cuts. I also received a lot of email from taxpayers saying they were already paying enough taxes," said Hughes during his weekly conference call this morning.
In the end, Sen. Hughes said there was a solid block of at least 20 senators unwilling to spend the money associated with Gov. Ricketts' $56.6 million in line-item vetoes. Only two of the vetoes even made it to a vote, he added.
"That $56.5 million will be put back into the budget and bring us back to an estimated 3-percent reserve level," said Sen. Hughes.
The vetoed spending doesn't appear to be offering a whole lot of solace to Sen. Hughes, though, who still believes a special session this fall to address budget shortfalls is likely.
"We'll see, based off forecasting. I'm still not comfortable the state's economy has bottomed out yet. I hope I'm wrong, no question about that," said Sen. Hughes, adding he believed the ripple effect from Nebraska's lagging agriculture economy was just beginning to impact the rest of the state.
Sen. Hughes indicated the revenue forecasting board's October meeting should provide additional insight.
Although the vetoed spending garnered significant attention, Sen. Hughes indicated it was important to note the state was still increasing spending, which is now in the $4.5 billion range annually.
"We are spending more than we a did a year ago. The budget is not shrinking," he said, estimating the spending growth between budget years to be less than one percent following the successful veto effort.
Sen. Hughes believes there is still room to make cuts in the state budget, but indicated it was a lot easier road for those advocating for spending increases, than it was for those vying for fiscal restraint.
"There are places we can reduce spending, in my mind, absolutely. In some of my colleague's mind, absolutely not, we should be spending more," he said.
"It's a lot easier to tell people you're going to fund their budget than it is telling them you're not going to. I'm very ready to be heading home tomorrow."