Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 17, 2012 at 11:47 am •  Published: December 17, 2012
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Lawmakers and Gov. Dave Heineman will decide how to divvy up state tax dollars. Fortunately, revenue is running ahead of projections. The pressure is on, complicated by the question of whether the state should expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act with full federal funding assured for the first three years, followed by a gradual decline to 90 percent.

Although neither of the groups relish being pitted against the other when it comes to state funding, the fact of their competition long has been recognized. A 2003 study by the Tax Policy Center, supported by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, noted that, in economic downturns, funding for higher education declines and funding for Medicaid rises. But when the economy recovers, higher education never recovers.

Tension between the groups may peak this year. Nationally, Medicaid is the biggest budget worry for states in the coming year, according to a survey released last week by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Kearney Hub. Dec. 16, 2012.

Big losers are putting Kearney on U.S. map

Kearney school children are developing a reputation as big losers. That's because Kearney Public Schools is being mentioned frequently in news reports about KPS's declining childhood obesity rate.

KPS's success has been highlighted in newspapers around the nation, including some of the largest publications in the United States.

The most recent mention came this week in the New York Times, which detailed success stories in urban schools in Philadelphia, New York City and Los Angeles.

The Times article stated: "The trend has emerged in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Kearney, Neb. The state of Mississippi has also registered a drop, but only among white students."

According to the Times, New York City has reported a 5.5 percent decline in the number of obese school children from 2007-2011. Philadelphia's obesity rate has dropped by 5 percent and, in Los Angeles, the decline is 3 percent.

The number of obese children in Kearney has declined by 15 percent since 2006. The improvement speaks a lot about the efforts of parents and children to become aware of the importance of diet and physical activity.

The improvement also can be traced to a commitment by KPS to teach about the value of an active lifestyle and also to provide healthier alternatives at school cafeterias.

KPS's focus on fighting obesity began with a federal grant from 2008 to 2011. The Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education helped KPS improve its physical education programs and initiate healthier menus at school cafeterias.

Each year in which the district has added wellness programs or made healthy changes, the number of overweight and obese children has decreased. The trend at KPS has attracted attention because childhood obesity has become one of the nation's most difficult health challenges. Even first lady Michelle Obama is speaking out on the issue.

The success at KPS offers hope that a concerted effort involving school children, parents, teachers and physical education and lunchroom staff can succeed.

Kearney's big losers appear to have a lot to teach others as our nation fights to win the battle against childhood obesity.

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The Grand Island Independent. Dec. 16, 2012.

Congress, president eventually must address spending, taxation imbalances

James A. Baker, the secretary of the treasury under President Ronald Reagan, recently offered some interesting insights about the ongoing fiscal standoff between President Obama and Congress. Baker was also chief of staff in both President Reagan's first administration and the final year of President George H.W. Bush's administration.

With respect to dealing with budget issues at the highest levels of government, Baker probably has more experience than any person now living. He dealt with Congress when the levers of power were controlled by the opposite political party, as they are today. He was part of negotiations that successfully reached agreements on taxes and spending, so his current thinking is particularly worthy of note.

Baker believes the nation is at a point where Congress and President Obama must agree to some kind of grand bargain on fundamental fiscal policies, including a decision on how much of the nation's gross domestic product should be allocated to government. To accomplish this, he says, everything must be on the table — tax increases, Medicare, Medicaid, tax deductions and loopholes, entitlements and military spending — everything.

In Baker's opinion the nation isn't undertaxed, it is overspent. President Obama doesn't agree, as evidenced by his wish to increase taxes on the wealthy and the tax increases that will accompany Obamacare. His is a very activist view of government, and it demands a larger share of the nation's income.

Despite significant differences, both sides must agree on policies that will increase revenues, control spending, and bring about a growing economy. Republicans seem amenable to higher tax revenues from the wealthy, but they are insisting on some kind of assurance that spending will be addressed. Baker notes that in the past Republicans agreed to tax increases that were coupled to future spending limits, only to see those limits later ignored. They are determined that this not happen again.

Divisions between the sides are unlikely to be resolved in the next few days, and a temporary fix may come about. But world markets will not indefinitely excuse the failure of our government to address the structural imbalances that are weakening our nation's financial health.

At some point, long-lasting policies about taxation and spending must be agreed upon.