Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s … expensive

Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s … expensive

By Joe Duggan January 23, 2013 6:40 pm Comments

Working with numbers never came easy for me, so I became a word guy.

But I’ve covered enough numbers people over the years to know they dislike unknowns when crafting budgets. So the Kansas lawsuit against Nebraska over the Republican River represented an X factor with a big “X” that nagged at the number crunchers preparing the governor’s two-year spending plan.

On Jan. 9, the first day of the legislative session, a special master assigned to the lawsuit said Nebraska should have to pay Kansas $5 million for using too much Republican water in 2005 and 2006. This editorial piece provides the highlights of a complex legal battle.

Ok, so $5 million is a large number, for sure. But the Jayhawkers wielded a much bigger scythe and they intended to reap up to $80 million from the Cornhuskers.

When talking about his budget last week, Gov. Dave Heineman sounded relieved with the potential $5 million judgment against the state. He praised Attorney General Jon Bruning for pulling off what could amount to tens of millions of dollars in damage control.

“$5 million is a whole lot better than $50 million,” the governor said.

True enough. But the issue is still an x factor, albeit with a lowercase “x.” The special master’s decision is a draft. He  has scheduled a meeting with the lawyers at the end of this month, allowing them to make a case for or against his preliminary findings.

Nonetheless, the governor said he’s confident Nebraskans won’t suddenly see a zero added to the $5 million judgment.