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Gov. Ricketts lays out 2021 priorities in State of the State address

(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 9:36 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 1:32 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. - Governor Pete Ricketts delivered his annual State of the State address Thursday at the State Capitol.

For the next two-year budget, Gov. Ricketts is proposing to control spending to a growth rate of 1.5 percent. He layed out the following priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

PROPERTY TAX RELIEF

“First, property tax relief. This budget delivers on the promise of property tax relief by delivering $1.36 billion in relief over the biennium. This includes $550 million in direct property tax relief through the State’s Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, and over $596 million from the newly enacted LB 1107 refundable property tax credit. I am also proposing roughly $214 million to provide for property tax payments under the current homestead exemption program.

But there’s more we must do to keep Nebraska on the road to realizing property tax relief. That is why Senator Linehan and I are proposing to limit the growth of local government property taxes to 3 percent. New local spending constraints are critical to ensuring the relief we provide goes into people’s pockets and to maintain local control in future years. Property taxes have grown by 4.46 percent annually on average for the last 10 years for an overall increase of 54.65 percent.

Taxes are growing at a rate that Nebraskans cannot manage within their family budgets. It is my belief that if the Legislature fails to enact spending constraints, the people of Nebraska will take matters into their own hands and strip local governments of their property tax authority. It’s happened before in the 1960s when the voters stripped the State of its authority to levy a property tax, and it will happen again. The limits we are proposing here are reasonable, and will help ensure that local control of the institutions we cherish endures for years to come.”

SUPPORTING SCHOOLS

“As we consider these limits, I also want to note that we can continue to support strong public schools. As I have done every year as Governor, my budget proposes to fully fund state aid to the K-12 education formula with an additional $42.7 million over the biennium. We must continue to invest in the next generation of Nebraskans so they can access educational opportunities that can help them achieve their dreams.”

SUPPORTING MILITARY FAMILIES AND VETERANS

“Next, I am proposing three initiatives to help Nebraska continue its journey to become the best state in the nation for military families and veterans. First, Nebraska is still working to bring Space Command to the Heartland. Senator Stinner and I are recommending the State invest $50 million towards establishing a public-private partnership to locate this important mission at Offutt Air Force Base. Second, Senator Brewer and I are proposing that Nebraska exempt 100 percent of military retirement income for military retirees. This would complete the work on veterans tax relief we began last year. And third, military spouses continue to face challenges taking jobs in Nebraska in licensed professions on a temporary basis. In recent years, Nebraska has made great strides in helping military spouses, who hold a teaching license in another state, to teach while their families are deployed here. Senator Sanders and I are working together to take new steps recommended by the Department of Defense to cut more red tape in this area.”

EXPAND HEALTHCARE WORKFORCE

“Additionally, Senator Murman and I are proposing that we use our experience gained during the pandemic to expand our healthcare workforce. Early in the pandemic, I issued an executive order allowing licensed healthcare professionals from other states to work here in Nebraska. By allowing universal reciprocity for out-of-state healthcare workers to continue, we can encourage more skilled healthcare professionals to choose the Good Life to help meet our state’s needs.”

NEW CORRECTIONS FACILITY

“This budget also helps us take important steps to protect public safety. Nebraska’s corrections system has been underbuilt for 40 years, and our infrastructure is aging. Working together, we’ve been able to make significant strides over the last six years, investing in sentencing reform, rehabilitation, and the physical plant of our system. But more must be done to modernize and rightsize our prisons. By 2025, Nebraska’s corrections system is forecasted to house over 6,400 inmates. Today, we have an operational capacity of over 5,300 inmates, and the Nebraska State Penitentiary is decaying. To help protect public safety and to replace the State Penitentiary, I am proposing that we build a new, modern correctional facility. This facility will require an initial investment of $115 million in this budget for a total of $230 million by the time it is completed and operational in 2025.”

EXPAND BROADBAND INTERNET COVERAGE

“Finally, we must continue to invest in better community connectivity through broadband internet. It’s no secret that many Nebraskans still do not have access to broadband. Over 80,000 Nebraska households lack broadband speeds of at least 25/3. The pandemic revealed how impossible work from home or remote education can be for those on the wrong side of the digital divide. Over the last several months, we were able to use CARES Act money to begin connecting 17,600 households with broadband. Additional households are expected to receive broadband using existing resources over the next two years. Senator Friesen, Speaker Hilgers, and I are proposing that we invest $20 million in each of the next two years to help another 30,000 households get broadband connectivity. This will move Nebraska closer to bringing broadband coverage to every corner of the state.”

Property tax relief. Our veterans and military. Licensing reform. Public safety. Broadband access. These are all critical priorities for us to work on this year. As the session gets underway, I’m confident that we can achieve each of these in the coming days by working together for the people – the Nebraska Way.

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