Heineman discusses regional issues

Governor Dave Heineman says progress is being made in a bill that would pour new firefighting resources into central and western Nebraska. The measure would place aerial tankers in Valentine and Chadron during fire season, require the state to thin forests, and offer new training to emergency responders, among other steps. But

While in Scottsbluff Monday Heineman indicated language that would have the state, not the federal government, with operational control of the new equipment is close to being done. Heineman also said he would still like to reduce the cost of the bill, which is sponsored by Senator Al Davis of Hyannis.

Heineman says he is monitoring the drought situation so the state is prepared to assist if there are wildfires this summer. He says while the central and western areas of the state looked greener during his flight Monday, they are still in need of moisture.

Heineman also said his trip to the Scottsbluff-Gering area Monday underscores the need for a state plane. Lawmakers last week pulled $2 million from the state budget to buy an airplane from the University of Nebraska Foundation, choosing instead to study whether better options are available. In its place, lawmakers authorized a study that will explore what type of plane the state should use and whether buying a new plane is more cost-effective.

Heineman says he is also attending a function in Lincoln tonight and he could not be accessible to all areas of the state without a state plane. Heineman says he hopes lawmakers put the two million dollars back in the state budget. The request was included in the state's proposed budget after the foundation decided to sell its Beechcraft Super King Air airplane. Heineman and agency officials use the plane through a lease agreement.

Heineman says he is concerned the rural areas of the state are still getting shortchanged in the proposed state aid to education formula Heineman said additional changes long-term need to take into account how different the rural end of the state is in terms of demographics, distances between students and schools, and geography.

Legislative Bill 407 advanced to the final stage of consideration without opposition Friday.

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