Omaha Public Radio News
1:54 pm
Fri August 6, 2010

House to vote on education, Medicaid funding bill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. House lawmakers from Nebraska and Iowa are returning to Washington next week in the middle of their summer recess to deal with the economy. Democratic leaders want them to ratify Senate action on preventing teacher layoffs and beefing up state budgets.

After months of delay and several unsuccessful attempts, the Senate approved a $26 billion dollars measure that Democratic leaders say could help save 1,000 teacher jobs in Nebraska and 1,500 in Iowa. The legislation will also help states foot the bill for Medicaid coverage for the poor, which will prevent budget cuts elsewhere.

"It's about preserving jobs and taking care of the obligation and helping states with their budgets," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. Nelson said he hopes the extra education funding will also keep local property taxes from going up.

Senator Nelson was not an early convert to the legislation. He helped pressure his party's leadership to scale back the proposal and make cuts elsewhere to offset the cost.

"It is not only fully paid for, it reduces the deficit by $1.4 billion over 10 years, in part by closing corporate tax breaks on income earned overseas - tax breaks that encourage the shifting of American jobs overseas," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who led the effort for the teacher funding.

Most Republicans remain unconvinced. Many insist the measure will add to the federal deficit. Sen. Mike Johanns, D-Neb., says states have to make tough choices and not count on Washington to bail them out.

"What is happening is states are connecting themselves to a federal budget process that is in very very serious trouble," he said.

Many state governors, from both parties, have been lobbying for the money, saying they can't afford any more budget cuts. But the GOP says Washington can't afford to keep borrowing money for them either.

The House vote is expected Tuesday.