The election is
over. The results are known. The collective exhale of relief from both
candidates and electors is like the winds that sweep across Nebraska in late
The voters in our household tried to stay
positive, interested and focused on issues throughout the process, but after
receiving several "recorded messages" during the weekend before Election
Day, it was difficult to sustain good attitudes. That experience was a
little souring—also somewhat entertaining—but not enough so to keep us away
from the polls. Voting is always important.
It is also important to sustain interest in the
political process even though the election is now a matter of history.
Political responsibility and faithful citizenship, which Catholic teaching
regards as necessary and virtuous, do not end with casting a ballot. All are
called to engage the decision-making processes that affect the common good.
Now is an excellent, compelling time to take a
relatively simple step: write a letter or send an e-mail to those newly
elected, or re-elected, to represent you in government. Congratulate them.
Wish them well as they shoulder important responsibilities and face major
challenges. Do this even if they didn’t receive your vote.
Also, just as importantly, let them know of the
issues you are interested in, the views you hold and the priorities you
assign to those issues. Follow up, not once but on regular, reasonable
basis. The objective? Initiating and cultivating a constituent-office holder
The conclusion of another round of elections means
the decision-making processes are soon to renew, for which we all have a
Considering the news of just a few days prior to
the election, we cannot help but wonder if some of those elected to the
Nebraska Unicameral—probably more so for re-elected incumbents—are having
some second thoughts about holding that office. We refer to the news that
the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board increased its estimate of
the gap between state spending and anticipated tax revenue.
The Board’s numbers now forecast an unprecedented
gap of $1.39 billion for the next budget biennium, i.e., July 1, 2011
through June 30, 2013. The previous forecast, in July, pegged the shortfall
at $751 million. The budget problem has grown bigger as considered by the
The Forecasting Board assumes a 10.4 percent
increase in state spending for the two-year period, largely due to replacing
federal stimulus funding, and forecasts a 3.3 percent growth in revenues,
which is considerably below historical averages.
Since the state constitution requires a balanced
budget, legislators and the governor will face a really big challenge in the
upcoming legislative session, which begins January 5. Either spending will
have to be substantially pared, at a cost to state aid and operations, or
measures will have to be taken to increase revenue; i.e., raising
taxes/fees. Quite a choice, huh? The decisions will be difficult and
There is some realistic hope that the situation
will improve before the budget decisions are finalized. There will be
updated forecasts in February and April, while the regular session will run
Some trepidation is certainly understandable, but
rather than having second thoughts about what they have gotten themselves
into, it is more likely that those elected to serve in the upcoming 102nd
Nebraska Legislature are eager to tackle the challenges.
While the budget and its many component issues
will be the Legislature’s foremost priority, it won’t be the only matter
addressed in 2011. The scope is broad.
For example, this Legislature is likely to tackle
implementation issues stemming from the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act, federal health care reform. Not only will this be a matter of
deciding what has to be done, by when, and how best to do that, but it also
will involve paying attention to changes being considered by Congress.
Many of the substantive provisions of PPACA are
scheduled to take effect in 2014. Other provisions, however, took effect on
September 23 of this year, including banning insurance denials due to
pre-existing conditions, ending lifetime health insurance benefit caps and
providing for dependent coverage of children through age 25.
By December 1 upcoming, a six member task force of
legislators is expected to present a statewide strategic plan for
cultivating a climate of entrepreneurship that will result in innovation and
high-wage employment. The aptly named Innovation and Entrepreneurship Task
Force was created by the enactment of LB 1109, the aptly named Nebraska
Innovation and High Wage Employment Act.
Part of the strategic plan must include an
overview of best practices from other states, including "economic gardening
and angel investor programs."