NORFOLK — Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha criticized Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday for state budget cuts that he said "risk the well-being of the state's most vulnerable citizens," including the elderly and people with disabilities.
"This is what happens when one of the richest and most powerful Nebraskans attempts to represent the poorest and the weakest," Krist said in remarks prepared for delivery at a town hall session in Norfolk.
Krist is preparing to wage an independent third-party gubernatorial race challenging Ricketts in the 2018 general election. The nine-year state senator has changed his party registration from Republican to nonpartisan in advance of the contest.
"There are facts and evidence that the governor's line-item veto of $56.5 million for groups that serve the elderly and people with developmental disabilities is now having damaging effects," Krist said.
"These were not legislative actions; these were line-item vetoes by the governor aimed specifically at a very vulnerable population."
Last spring, Krist said, state senators fell three votes short of the support they needed to restore $32.4 million in funding that Ricketts had vetoed, most of which went to Medicaid service providers, including NorthStar Services, which hosted the town hall session.
NorthStar relies on state funding to provide employment services for people with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome or fetal alcohol syndrome, as well as providing day services for the elderly, Krist said.
NorthStar serves 257 residents and provides 500 jobs in northeast Nebraska, he said.
"There are reductions in services across the board," Krist said.
The Ricketts re-election campaign declined to respond.