Nebraska governor says health reform a threat to state education funding

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman is calling on the state's education advocates to support a repeal of the Democrats' new health reform law — or risk getting fewer dollars in the future.

The Republican governor says the looming expansion of Medicaid will steal funding directly from the state's education coffers. 

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"Increased funding for Medicaid is likely to result in less funding for education," Heineman wrote last week to state education groups, Bloomberg reported. "Don't sit on the sidelines. I strongly urge you to support the repeal of the recently enacted federal health care law."

Earlier in the month, Heineman's office released figures estimating the reform law's Medicaid expansion — set to take effect in 2014 — will cost Nebraska between $526 million and $766 million during the next 10 years. The projections are much higher than those crunched by analysts at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who estimate the state costs to come in between $106 million and $155 million during the same span. 

(By contrast, Kaiser estimates the federal government will pay between $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion to expand Medicaid coverage in the state.) 

The tug-of-war between health and education is nothing new to the states-- Medicaid and school funding are consistently the two most expensive budget items nationwide. 

Indeed, in the recent Capitol Hill battle over emergency Medicaid funding, many states had warned Congress that a failure to provide the money would result in thousands of teacher lay-offs.