Gov. Dave Heineman today vetoed LB 599, a bill that would provide taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants. Gov. Heineman is opposed to taxpayer-funded benefits for illegals on the basis of fairness to legal citizens, as well as potentially providing taxpayer dollars to pay vendors that perform or promote abortions, including Planned Parenthood.
The Governor's veto letter follows:
I am returning LB 599 & LB599A without my signature and with my objections.
The issue presented by LB 599 is not the importance of prenatal care to the development of a child. We all agree that expectant mothers should seek out and utilize prenatal care as the benefits of such care are without question. Most Nebraskans pay for prenatal care themselves. Nothing in current law prohibits health centers, hospitals, clinics, private donors, or other benefactors across the state from assisting those in need of care, regardless of their immigration status.
The issue presented by LB 599 is whether or not over $2.5 million in tax dollars from hard-working Nebraskans should be used each year to pay for prenatal services for women who broke the immigration laws, became pregnant, and are in Nebraska at the time of their pregnancies. This issue should not to be confused with providing prenatal services to low-income women who are citizens or are otherwise lawfully present in Nebraska. Taxpayers already fund these services through the Medicaid program for women up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
Many Nebraskans are working overtime or working a second job to support their family. These are the families that work hard, follow the rules, and exhibit the virtue of self-reliance that make our state great. They are to be commended and we must be mindful that they are watching how elected officials spend their hard-earned dollars.
If a hard-working, law-abiding family is one dollar above 185 percent of the federal poverty level, the mother will not be eligible for prenatal care through the Medicaid program. Yet, LB 599 would utilize that family's state and federal tax dollars to provide free prenatal care to illegal immigrants who are knowingly and willingly breaking both the immigration and employment laws. This is wrong and fundamentally unfair.
Another concern with this legislation is that it will result in Nebraska becoming a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Nebraska would become the only state in the Midwest providing these taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants. None of our neighboring states of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming or South Dakota are providing these taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants. The federal rules, 42 C.F.R. 457.320, for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) prohibit a state from imposing a durational residency requirement on applicants for benefits. An illegal immigrant from any bordering city or town could establish residency in Nebraska in the morning and apply for benefits provided under LB 599 in the afternoon.
Further objections to the bill arise from its defective provisions that will lead to unintended consequences. First, subsection (2) of section 4 states, that this new benefit:
"shall be implemented through the creation of a separate program as allowed under Title XXI of the federal Social Security Act, as amended, and 42 C.F.R. 457.10, solely for the unborn children of mothers who are ineligible for coverage under [the Medicaid program]."
This provision is an improper delegation of legislative power to the federal government. If, in the future, the federal government changes the criteria for eligibility, the program created by LB 599 will change, which would be an unlawful delegation of legislative power in violation of Article III, Section 1 of the Nebraska Constitution.
Also, the same subsection requires that the new benefits meet the requirements of 42 C.F.R. 457.10, which includes by reference a list of benefits that are to be provided under a separate child health program. Those benefits include "prenatal care and pre-pregnancy family planning services and supplies." While subsection (3) of LB 599 may be intended to limit the benefits authorized in subsection (2), the plain language of the bill does not allow for such a limitation.
The proponents of LB 599 would lead you to believe that it is a pro-life bill. I disagree. I am pro-life and I am proud of my record as Governor on pro-life issues.
Earlier in the session, this Legislature voted to adopt an amendment to other legislation, LB 540, to prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to support any medical provider that performs or promotes elective abortions. LB 599 contains no similar restriction on using taxpayer dollars to pay vendors that perform or promote abortions.
I have grave concerns about this bill incorporating a federal law mandate to provide pre-pregnancy family planning services and supplies without there being any restriction that would prevent such funding from ending up in the hands of entities such as Planned Parenthood, or other doctors, hospitals, and clinics that perform and promote abortions.
I oppose providing taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants. I oppose providing taxpayer funding to vendors that perform or promote abortions.
For these reasons, I respectfully urge you to sustain my vetoes of LB 599 & LB 599A.