The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, December 10, 1998, Page 8, Image 8

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    Nelson prepares to leave office
after two terms of service to state
Nelson’s methodical persistence that earned his
initiatives a strong approval rating in the
“I think (Nelson) was fairly typical in that he
was aggressive and had an agenda,” Wesely said.
“But Ben kind of paced himself - he wasn’t a
sprinter, he was a marathoner.”
Doug Kristensen, speaker of the Legislature,
said Nelson had worked diligently to broker
budget agreements with the Legislature.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, the
Legislature and the governor agreed on budget
priorities,” he said. “That’s in large part due to
his good working relationship with the
Pulling strings of spending
A political leader knows taxpayers pay atten
tion to their pocketbooks when granting their
approval, and for Nelson, taxes and spending
issues have been a constant challenge.
By Todd Anderson
and Brian Carlson
Staff writers
Election Day, Nov. 5, 1996.
At a gathering of Democratic supporters in
Omaha, the glum reality had set in: Ben Nelson,
the popular governor of Nebraska, had suffered a
crushing defeat in the U.S. Senate race at the
hands of Republican Chuck Hagel.
Around 10 p.m., a dejected but still smiling
Nelson took the podium to concede defeat. The
lieutenant governor, Kim Robak, stepped to
the microphone to introduce him.
With the introduction of Initiative 413 - a
proposed constitutional amendment that would
have limited the growth of state revenue and
spending - some Nebraskans demonstrated their
discontent with what they perceived to be
unchecked taxation and growth in spending.
But Nelson often jokes that he is fiscally
tighter than three coats of paint, and said those
who complain about out-of-control state spend
ing are basing their talk on something other than
Nelson said he acted to cut the cost of run
ning government by advocating efficiency and
reorganizing state agencies such as the Health
_I IF_
Ben, the people ot
Nebraska have spoken,”
she said. “And it’s obvious
that they really, really want
you to remain their gover
Robak’s comment,
although a positive spin on a
disappointing loss, never
theless rang true for Nelson.
Growing up in McCook,
home of famous U.S. Sen.
George Norris, Nelson’s
aspiration was to become
governor. In 1990, his
| dream came true, by the
slimmest of margins.
He won the Democratic
Ben Nelson established
a personal relationship
with this state in which his
open-heartedness and
good intentions were
obvious to its citizens
Dave Landis
Nebraska state senator
anu i 1 u in ail
Though the
state budget
grew by 12 per
cent last year -
which included
a large dose of
aid to local
and schools -
Nelson said his
eight-year aver
age for growth
in total state
spending from
the general
primary by just 42 votes, then won a narrow Iunu WdS near 3
I victory over incumbent Kay Orr in the gen- P^ff1*- , , T ,
eral election. Four years later, he was re- Spending is the issue, and I think we ve
elected in a landslide addressed it, Nelson said. “We ve fought dili
Nelson is the first two-term governor of to hang on to the controls on spending.”
Nebraska since James Exon held office Harrison Sen. Bob Wickersham agreed,
from 1971 to 1979. As his eight years in think that (NeIson) probably will be
office draw to a close, fellow politicians said remembered most for his fiscal constraint and
Nelson will be remembered for his connection Pmdent use of resources, he said,
with Nebraskans:
“Ben Nelson established a personal relation
ship with this state in which his open-hearted
ness and good intentions were obvious to its cit
A matter of gray matter
As one of his top priorities, Nelson sought to
address what he commonly
juxu Lin win oiaiv ijvii.
Dave Landis. “People like Ben
Even political opponents
such as State GOP Chairman
Chuck Sigerson grudging
ly acknowledge Nelson’s
rapport with Neb
“Ben Nelson was
a person people
seemed to like, to a
certain extent,” he
“He is a lik
able person, and
he seemed to
enjoy good
among the
electorate of
|| - reierreu 10 as me Drain
j t j drain,” the loss of some of
1 KTIOW that you the state’s best and brightest
i. students to out-of-state uni
Can CUt Spending versities and employers.
7 . 7 >,/ To combat that trend,
but you don t have Nelson twice introduced
tn rut hrmr thnt “brain gain” bllls’ which
try un c, mui would have set up scholar
you can balance 1^“
interests if you 're N"and
willing to make the
difficult decisions.” start'?be T*a! *e ha^e
enough people to fill the jobs
„ XT was the young people we
BEN NELSON already have in the state,”
governor of Nebraska Nelson said.
After being awarded a
scholarship from the state for
studv in a specified field students would have
Plays well with others
Since he took office in
1991, Nelson has
enjoyed popularity,
both with the voters of
the state and the body
created to check his
power, the
Nelson tapped
that popularity and
translated it into an
effective form of
leadership, fellow
Nebraska politi
cians said.
Retiring Sen.
Don Wesely of
Lincoln said it was
been required to stay in Nebraska to work for
three years after graduation.
Even though the bills failed, Nelson said the
idea created discussion on how to stop the exo
dus of Nebraska students to other states per
ceived to have more job opportunities or better
standards of living.
Nelson, a graduate of the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, said he has enjoyed a positive
relationship with his alma mater.
He said he takes pride in state government’s
strong support for higher education. During the
Nelson years, state financial support for its pub
lic universities has remained steady, and the
Legislature appropriated funds for renewal of
old buildings on all four NU campuses, includ
ing UNL’s Richards, Lyman and Bancroft halls.
In September, Nelson announced the birth of
the Nelson Institute, his own private charity for
economic development and educational oppor