STOTHERT LEADS ON TACKLING BUDGET CHALLENGES WHILE MELLO TURNED THE LIGHTS OUT EARLY

Mayor Jean Stothert has updated the city council this morning that the 2016 fiscal year budget surplus is projected to be $9.25 million.

“We work diligently to ensure that all of our departments remain on track with their spending.  This is a constant, year-round activity on our part that has helped deliver another budget surplus to the citizens of Omaha for the fourth year in a row,” Stothert said.

The mayor said she has a solid record of ending deficits.  Upon entering office in June 2013, she faced a $13 million deficit for the remaining six months of that year and another $20 million deficit in 2014.  Both were eliminated through an aggressive program of spending cuts and department efficiencies.

“Controlling spending to balance a budget can be a very difficult and challenging process.  But leadership requires that you step up to the plate and do it,” Stothert said.

By comparison, Stothert said former state Sen. Heath Mello, who chaired the Appropriations committee, failed to do anything to address a growing shortfall in the state’s current budget.  The gap ultimately grew to $276 million before it was reduced by the governor’s leadership and legislative action in early February.

Mello has stated publicly that he took no action to address the growing gap because he had “ended” his term as Appropriations committee chairman when the legislature adjourned last April.1

“Mr. Mello’s justification is simply not credible.  He was committee chair throughout 2016 when the budget shortfall was growing worse. Yet, by his own admission, he did nothing about it.  You can’t solve a problem by ignoring it or leaving it for someone else to fix,” Stothert said.

When the state’s budget gap worsened in July, Mello said he would “keep a mindful eye” on the problem.2 “He said it, but he didn’t do it,” Stothert said.

Stothert said the contrast between how she has handled budget shortfalls versus how her opponent has handled them will be an important one in the upcoming election.  “It takes leadership and tough decision making to address budget shortfalls,” Stothert said.  “I see a problem and I act to resolve it. He (Mello) simply runs away and expects other people to clean up the mess.”

1 At a speech to a local Kiwanis group on January 5, 2017, Mello stated the following in response to a question about a pending $276 million budget shortfall:  “When I ended my term as a legislator in service in April of last year, the last day of the legislative session, we had a balanced budget.”  Later in that same response, Mello stated:  “So, when I ended my term as Appropriations chair in April, we had a balanced budget and there was no deficit.”  Mello concluded with the following comment relating to passage of the budget in April 2016:  “When I was done, spending was fine, the budget proposal we gave was good, the governor signed off on it, the legislature signed off on it, but I don’t control tax revenue.”
2 News article, Omaha World-Herald, “Lawmakers say special budget-cutting session not needed,” July 25, 2016.