LINCOLN — A coalition of Nebraska groups called Monday for the state to invest in rebuilding education, health and infrastructure rather than reducing taxes.

Coalition members spoke out one day before Gov. Dave Heineman releases his budget and tax proposals.

The governor is expected to unveil plans to reduce or eliminate state income taxes during today's State of the State address.

But Mark Intermill with AARP Nebraska said there needs to be a balance between taxes and spending.

He said budget cuts in recent years have strained state programs crucial to maintaining “The Good Life” in Nebraska. He called for shoring up those programs now that the state's finances are on better footing.

Shawn Bonge, an Omaha mother of three and a volunteer with Nebraska Parents for Public Education, talked about one way budget cuts affect children.

She said a lack of money means many schools operate with old computers and limited-capacity wireless connections.

As a result, when children in one classroom are online, those in another classroom are shut out, she said.

“The issue of funding our schools should not be a political one,” Bonge said. “It is an issue of our obligation as citizens.”

Other speakers talked about the effect of limiting budgets while needs grow.

Robbie Nathan, a volunteer with AARP, said community services to keep elderly people at home have had to draw up waiting lists for the first time.

She said people who cannot live at home often have to move to a nursing home or assisted living facility and go on Medicaid.

Jen Rae Hein, a spokeswoman for the governor, declined to comment Monday.

Groups involved with the coalition include: AARP Nebraska, Center for People in Need, Center for Rural Affairs, Community Action of Nebraska, Disability Rights Nebraska, Nebraska Association of Public Employees, Nebraska Appleseed, Nebraska State Education Association, Nonprofit Association of the Midlands, and Voices for Children in Nebraska.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9583, martha.stoddard@owh.com

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