By Governor Pete Ricketts
April 9, 2018
Official photo here.
Balancing the budget without raising taxes has been a top priority this legislative session. We started the session with a $200 million gap between budgeted spending and projected state revenues. In January, I made recommendations on how to cut the budget along with new pro-life budget language. Last week, I received and signed the budget bills, which achieve our goal. Thanks to the hard work of many, we have a balanced budget that constrains spending, puts in place new pro-life budget language, and contains several other important priorities.
During the four legislative sessions I have been Governor, senators and I have worked to constrain spending. Our collaboration has brought great results. When I entered office, government spending was growing at 6.5 percent a year, which was simply unsustainable. After years of hard work we have been able to cut the rate of growth in state spending by over 90 percent. With these new budget adjustments, state spending will grow at just 0.5 percent.
Nebraska’s time-honored tradition of balancing our budget has earned our state national distinctions. Nebraska ranks among the best states for having the lowest debt supported by state taxes per capita. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks Nebraska as having the sixth best fiscal condition in the nation. We have also consistently maintained a AAA credit rating.
The new budget also contains important new pro-life budget language. Nebraska is a pro-life state and our budget should reflect those values. This year, senators and I worked together on new budget language to ensure that your taxpayer dollars do not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion services in the Title X program. The pro-life language in the budget ensures that Title X taxpayer dollars do not fund abortion services, including abortion referrals, at clinics in Nebraska. It is important to note that the budget maintains the existing level of Title X funding, which provides reproductive healthcare for thousands of Nebraska women and men.
As we balanced the budget, we also made important investments to address challenges our state is facing. The budget I signed increases funding for child welfare services to address a significant increase of children coming into our child welfare system. The budget contains an additional $2.7 million in funding for Nebraskans with developmental disabilities. We have been working to take care of these Nebraskans. In 2017, the Division of Developmental Disabilities made more service offers than the last five years combined. This funding will allow the state to provide an even higher level of service to one of our most vulnerable populations.
The budget also makes a new investment in our Corrections system. The Legislature adopted my recommendation to fund an additional 100 beds at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. This builds on three other capital construction projects the Legislature and I have agreed upon in the last two years. Together, these investments are helping transform our Corrections system. It’s important to remember that 93 percent of inmates who come into our prisons eventually reenter society. We are working to build a Corrections system that protects public safety by delivering programming for inmates that helps reduce the rate of re-offense when they finish their sentences.
Getting these budget adjustments done was not easy. Many senators played a role, but I want to especially thank Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk and Appropriations Committee Chairman John Stinner of Gering for their leadership in guiding these adjustments through the legislative process. Additionally, Senator Mike Hilgers of Lincoln and Senator Dan Watermeier of Syracuse deserve major thanks for their work on the pro-life budget language.
As we move forward, my administration continues to work to make state government more effective and more efficient. We are working every day to be a good steward of your taxpayer dollars by identifying ways to eliminate waste and deliver better service. If you have ideas on how we can continue to make state government work for you, we want to hear them! Call my office at 402-471-2244 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.