State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont plans to introduce illegal immigration legislation, but the biggest job in the 90-day session that starts Wednesday will again be balancing the budget, he said.
"When you've got a $900 million-plus shortfall you can't help but look at the obvious in the room," he said. "I said that two years ago when I went down there the first time that the budget was going to be the issue ... and that was nothing compared to what we've got in front of us now."
Janssen participated in an interim study this summer to find budget cuts. The results, LR 527, show there is room for more cuts, he said.
"I'm going down there with the mentality, and this shouldn't be earth shattering to many people, that I don't want to raise taxes," he said.
"I think at present government is over serving, they're serving outside of their capacity," he continued. "We have too many programs and they're not run efficiently.
"On the committee I sat in, I'm not ashamed to say I led the motion to get rid of what's formerly known as the Mexican-American Commission, and also the Native American Commission," Janssen pointed out. "They're not gone yet, but that's about $400,000 a year in taxpayer money that is used essentially to lobby state government for more money in those two organizations. ... I'm not saying those organizations don't have a mission, I just don't think it needs to be taxpayer funded.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm glad that this came about, but I think it's an opportunity for us to get rid of a lot of programs that government doesn't really need to be in," he said.
"The only chance of me ever raising taxes would be if we're not meeting our core functions of government," he said, adding there is already enough money to meet those needs "if we eliminate what are really not the core functions of government.
"These cuts will affect everybody," he said. "It's not government working with one less administrative assistant, these will be felt by everybody until the public says we want to pay more taxes for these programs."
Janssen called federal stimulus funds "a huge mistake" that gave a false sense of security two years ago, but now have inflated state budgets to unsustainable levels.
"When I was sitting down in Lincoln two years ago as a freshman senator they were saying we've got a quarter billion dollars just inserted into the budget, where do you want to put it?" he said. "We pumped most of it into education to keep up the state aid formula. You hear a lot about the cliff affect, we knew that was coming."
Janssen plans to introduce two to four bills aimed at illegal immigration.
"The majority of Nebraskans want something done," he said. "Unfortunately there's a minority in the Legislature that continue to block that. I have reason to believe they will block it again, so I'm actually going to appeal to the public quite a bit to let their voices be known."
Janssen is going try again to repeal the so called Dream Act, which provides in-state tuition benefits at public universities and colleges for illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions. He introduced LB 1001 last year in an effort to repeal it, but that didn't make it out of the Education Committee.
"The federal government has said it's illegal to offer a benefit to somebody that is not a legal resident, aka an illegal alien, that you don't offer to an American citizen," Janssen said. "The state is clearly violating that.
"This is one of the most egregious things I've seen down there," he said. "I had 19 cosponsors of the Dream Act repeal last year, it didn't even get a vote out of the Education Committee."
He spent much of the summer writing a bill he said focuses on all aspects of illegal immigration, emphasizing the need for proof of citizenship.
"There are going to people that are going to say it's a witch hunt and everybody's got to carry their papers here and there," he said. "That's not it, it's really to protect the people that are here legally. That could be Latino, Canadian, Panamanian, you name it. There are people that a shadow of doubt is cast upon because of the illegal behavior of people."
He expects rough sailing with that bill.
"In my case I just can't sit here and ignore that the law's being broken over and over and we're going to hide behind the fact that it's a federal issue," he continued. "No it's not because I see the state budget; we have a $1 billion deficit and part of it is illegal immigration."
Janssen is also involved in an effort involving legislators from other states to repeal the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants citizenship to people born in the United States.
"Many people dangerously come over here while they're pregnant just for the simple fact to get the so-called anchor babies," Janssen said. "We've worked all summer long and throughout the fall and winter putting together the proper language for repeal of the 14th Amendment on a statewide level to push it up to the federal level."