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Budget battles issue in mayoral race

Posted at 5:48 PM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 18:48:29-05

Omaha’s mayoral race heats up as budgets become a campaign topic.

The preliminary 2016 year-end summary is out on the city of Omaha’s budget which states there’s $9,258,848 dollars that will rollover to the 2018 budget.

Mayor Jean Stothert touts her budgetary skills in providing a surplus every one of her years she’s been mayor.

“This represents sound budget management; this is the fourth surplus that we have had with the budgets that I have managed,” said Stothert.

Stothert took this opportunity to take a dig at her main rival, Heath Mello, “He did nothing.”

Stothert says after the legislative session adjourned in April, Mello as appropriations chair, failed to keep in check with the state’s budget as the revenue forecast kept projecting more of a deficit.

“My opponent took the easy way out, and hid from the mess that he helped create,” said Stothert.

A mess Mello says was not the case when the legislature and the governor signed off on the budget in April.

“With the support of republicans and democrats in the legislature we provided Gov. Ricketts last year with a balanced budget in which Gov. Ricketts signed into law with no veto,” said Mello.

But Stothert says it was Mello’s job to keep the budget in line and keep in touch with the governor.

“There was no effort to reach out to the governor, there was no effort to reach any solutions and i think that should have happened,” said Stothert.

However Mello says that’s not true, he did talk with the governor and his staff regularly and it’s the governor who controls the budget after it’s passed into law.

“Mayor Stothert doesn’t understand the basics of the Nebraska constitution in which the governor actually manages the state’s budget after the legislature gives the governor a budget that’s passed and signed into law,” said Mello.

3 News Now asked if the governor call a special session then to address some of these issues, Stothert’s response, “that decision should have been made between the appropriations chair and the governor on how they were going to address it,” said Stothert.

We reached out to the other mayoral candidate on their thoughts on this:

Taylor Royal:

Mayor Stothert balanced the budget through  higher property tax valuations and more pesky taxes-- not reduced spending. She extended parking meters downtown and did not uphold her promise to remove the restaurant tax.

I would focus on government spending. I would balance the budget through a top-down review of all our city services and the creation of an effectively-managed outsourcing initiative.  My administration would look for strategic opportunities to leverage professional companies in town to provide services to our taxpayers.  Outsourcing strategic city functions would better steward taxpayer resources by reducing the City's expenditures on wages, retirement benefits, health insurance benefits, and the capital expenditures and maintenance of trucks and equipment. 

Christopher Geary:

Taxpayers pay taxes for all of our city services. Everyone employed by the city is an employee of the citizens of Omaha. These citizens should have a city that is safe, functional and economically sound. Taxpayer dollars should be spent first to keep the city safe. Keeping the police and fire departments at full strength and reigning in the costs through better contract negotiations. City streets are in need of major repairs, the budget needs to address this. Upkeep of our parks and city buildings needs to be done. We have to fund the sewer separation project and provide city services. No matter what the project, or problem, I would make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent the best and most economic way that they can be. I would cut wasteful spending wherever it exists.