AP NEWS

Gov. Ricketts lobbies to keep Title X funding restrictions in state budget

March 14, 2018

LINCOLN - Gov. Pete Ricketts is coy about the proposed budget legislators will begin debating, except for one aspect.

Ricketts is reluctant to discuss the proposed budget as legislators prepare to amend the $8.9 billion two-year budget blueprint they approved last year, with an exception.

Ricketts makes it known he wants lawmakers to approve his proposal to adopt language to keep federal family planning funds, known as Title X funds, from going to organizations which perform abortions.

“And of course, the Title X language is also very important,” Ricketts tells reporters. “I think the bill came out 9-0 out of committee and I think that says a lot about the Title X language and I look forward to the debate, but I encourage the senators to keep that language in as part of the budget.”

A similar proposal nearly derailed budget debate last year. Opponents of the language claim it takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood, an accusation Ricketts denies. The governor says any organization can apply for the federal funds, they only must keep abortion services separate from family planning services.

Ultimately the language was removed from the budget last year and it won approval.

Legislators have returned to the budget since state revenue continues to fall short of expectations. They must close a nearly $200 million budget gap.

Members of the Appropriations Committee have backed away from the governor’s call for 4% across-the-board cuts next fiscal year, instead, recommending the Unicameral approve 1% cuts.

Ricketts declines to criticize the committee for drastically scaling back his proposal.

“We’ll let the legislature discuss the appropriations bill, right? So, that’s not the bill I vote on,” according to Ricketts. “I vote on what the legislature ultimately decides. But, again, I think we do have to remember we have to keep control of costs here in our state.”