Senators Head to Lincoln for Legislative Session

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State senators from central Nebraska say that while things like Medicaid expansion and state aid for schools are likely to be issues they tackle this session, they'll only be a part of the Legislature's main priority.

"Even though there may be specific issues, whether it has to do with Health and Human Services or roads or senior buses - ultimately all those issues come down to do we have the dollars there to be able to do it?" says Senator Mike Gloor, District 35.

2013 is a budget year for Nebraska, but senators say the state isn't perched on a fiscal cliff like other parts of the country.

"We head into the session in better fiscal shape than what we were in two years ago," says Senator Greg Adams, District 24. "We're looking at about a $185-200 million anticipated shortfall."

Adams says $200 million is still a lot, but pales compared to the $1 billion shortfall the state faced two years ago.

"It may build some extra shoulder room in for different kinds of programs and things but we need to be very careful of that," Adams says.

Senators say they'll have to look at tax proposals and ways to keep money in the state's cash reserve while giving out funding because a balanced budget is a must.

"Most Nebraskans don't know that our state uniquely isn't allowed to run a deficit," says Gloor. "We can't go into debt to pay the bills."

Gloor says that's not the only unique thing about Nebraska's one-house non-partisan system, and District 37 Senator Galen Hadley says that's why Nebraska won't have the budget problems plaguing the federal government.

"I think we need to continue to have the openness that we have in our system and the fact that people know what's going on, we have hearings on all the bills, people can come down and testify, we have to balance the budget, [and] all of our votes are open," says Hadley.

When the Legislature convenes on Wednesday committee appointments will be made and committee chairs elected.

Adams says he's pursuing the nomination for Speaker of the Legislature, Gloor says he's running for chairmanship of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee, and Hadley says he's running for chair of the Revenue Committee.

Be sure to watch Nebraska Central News on Wednesday for more on a topic likely to appear this session: the state's inheritance tax.