Legislature overrides Ricketts' veto on SNAP benefits bill

Posted at 3:52 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 19:38:39-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Senator John McCollister said his bill affects working people, that just can't make enough for ends to meet.

The bill that was passed last week, and was vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts, expands SNAP benefits from the current standard of 130 percent to 165 percent of the federal poverty level.

That means somebody who makes less than $16,674 qualified under the current system, but this bill raises that limit to just over $21,252, for a single person's income.

"It's not enough in my opinion but it's something and I think it's needed," said Senator Terrell McKinney.

The bill will expire in October of 2023, with the federal government footing the extra cost for the benefits.

"I would like to remind you that the benefits are 100% paid by the federal government, whether it's 130 percent or 165 percent," said McCollister.

Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill saying it will discourage people from working, also saying in a statement the bill “would dramatically expand a taxpayer-funded food assistance program that is only intended to benefit those who are truly in need.”

And that the state may be on the hook to fund this in the future.

“History proves that it is nearly impossible to rein in a public benefit," said Ricketts.

Conservative senators who sided with Ricketts argued employers can't fill jobs now, and this will make it harder.

"When the government assistance and the government programs are the company that you compete with, and you’re a private business, you lose,” said Steve Erdman, a state senator from western Nebraska.

The debate grew testy with Senator Adam Morfeld saying his mother was on the program growing up.

"I get really sick and tired of hearing all this nonsense about how folks who are on these programs are lazy, can't get off their mother's couch, can't do their job. What a bunch of nonsense," said Morfeld.

Ultimately it passed, getting exactly the 30 votes needed to override the veto, helping out roughly 3,900 Nebraska families. The 30 votes were three votes less than the 33 that originally passed the bill.

The legislature also voted to expand utility expenses for low-income Nebraskans, as well as a bill that puts the state in charge of the troubled Omaha Public Schools pension fund, which is hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole.

Senator Justin Wayne, who was formerly on the OPS School Board, argued it's better to have experts controlling the fund.

"And if you think it's okay for educators to be pension fund managers,” said Wayne.

The legislature will return in the fall for redistricting. They passed guidelines Wednesday on a party-line vote, in the technically nonpartisan unicameral.

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