Nebraska lawmakers, health care organizations praise, criticize Pilsen’s State of the State

LINCOLN — State senators, nonprofits and local organizations cheered Wednesday with Jim Pilsen’s outlined priorities in his State of the Union address with Gov.

Much of Pillan’s address expanded on his budget recommendations, which have been introduced into law by Speaker John Arch of La Vista and offered a vision for Nebraska’s trajectory.

State Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood offered support of Pillan’s work, noting that the recommendations fall within the budget.

“I agreed with their proposals, and I didn’t see anything I was missing,” Clements said.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pilsen greets state Sen. Brian Hardin of Gering as he joins the Legislature for his first State of the Union address Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Lincoln. (Zack Wendling / The Nebraska Examiner)

Clements, who recently took over the leadership of the powerful Appropriations Committee, and with the state’s revenue looming large, said he is a little overwhelmed because he is “going in deep water” with his new role, but added that He’s taking it one day at a time to support Pilsen.

State Sen. Lorraine Lippincott of Central City, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said Pillan’s fiscally conservative budget shows a good balance of resources and relevant issues like property tax relief.

“The property taxes in the current system have caused a lot of people, number one, to move out of state and number two, not to move into our state,” Lippincott said. “And I believe Jim Pilsen addressed that issue today.”

‘future success’

State Sens. Tom Breeze of Albion and Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, chair of the executive board, also praised Pilon for the budget, which they said was tight enough on spending to deliver historic tax relief.

“I think the governor is doing a great job setting us up for future success and making us competitive,” Linehan said.

State Sens. Danielle Conrad and Jane Raybould, both of Lincoln, said Pillan offered transformative priorities, specifically involving education funding.

Conrad said Pillan’s tax package would have broad support across the political spectrum and Pillan’s “warm, authentic, personal leadership style” remains a standout.

Conrad said, “I love how he’s not afraid to talk about his passion for Nebraska and his love for his family.” “I think it’s a very welcoming and very inviting and really, really neat leadership style that impressed me during his address to the Legislature.”

To maintain the ‘belly’ wealth

Pillan’s priorities also address concerns about what they do — and what they don’t — address.

Konrad said the governor’s desire to send more state dollars to private religious schools is “misguided.”

“Public dollars should stay with public institutions,” Conrad said.

State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, who challenged Pilsen for the governor’s seat, said his speech fell flat, giving her “grave concern” that the new governor does not understand how government works.

“I find it very boring, and I know it’s hard to speak in public, and I’m sure he’ll get better with time, but he brought up things that I think are very important, And the numbers don’t add up,” said Blood.

Raybould said his main concern is whether future lawmakers “will have the stomach” to keep up with the level of funding needed to continue making Pillan’s requests year after year.

‘Ignoring the crisis’

Blood and state Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha also noted a lack of priorities related to health care access and affordability. Blood said notable exceptions to Pillan’s speech included water quality and how to address the environmental disaster from the ethylene plant in Mead, which Blood focused on.

Nebraska health care and human services providers joined in a statement against Pilon’s budget proposal, saying it “ignores the crisis” their region is facing that “we haven’t seen in generations.”

The joint statement was issued by 10 health organizations, including the Children and Families Coalition of Nebraska, the Nebraska Hospital Association, the Nebraska Rural Health Association and the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations.

“This budget jeopardizes the care that rural Nebraskans have access to – especially our elderly Nebraskans and vulnerable families,” reads the joint statement, continuing access to nursing home care, hospitals, primary and behavioral health care, dental calls the Legislature to ensure. services, developmental disabilities, and others.

Jaleen Carpenter, president and CEO of the National Health Care Association, said in a statement that nursing homes and assisted living facilities depend on state funding, especially in rural communities, and those issues must be addressed today.

“We cannot leave our elders behind, and we must invest in these care settings,” Carpenter said.

Jen Klebb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, criticized Pilsen for supporting legislation further restricting abortion and harming LGBTQ Nebraskans, two issues she said are pushing young people out of state more than taxes.

“When [Gov. Pete] Ricketts’ slogan for the state ‘Nebraska, it’s not for everyone’ was a true reflection of Ricketts and now Pilen’s plan,” Klebb Tweeted After Pillan’s address. “…the Puppies could live up to their words of ‘fairness’ and wanted to ‘win’ Nebraska by bringing Dems and Republicans together.”

‘Sinkhole of Nickels’

State Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee, took aim at Pilsen’s proposal for a new state prison, which he would never support.

McKinney said a new prison is not the solution because a second prison will be needed once the first one is built. That ignores mental health or substance abuse issues and other needed reforms to workforce skills, he said.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money, and if we’re looking at every nickel, it’s definitely a sinkhole of nickels that will never work,” McKinney said.

Nebraska Examiner political reporter Aaron Sanderford contributed to this report.

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