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Expanding Education Opportunities

As I mentioned in last week’s column, I presented my budget recommendations and key initiatives about how we can Grow Nebraska in my first State of the State address to the Unicameral on January 22nd. This year, my priorities will focus on creating jobs, cutting taxes, easing regulatory burdens, and expanding educational opportunities. This column focuses on the second two priorities that I laid out in my remarks: easing regulatory burdens and expanding educational opportunities.

When we get a property tax bill we can see exactly how much we are paying. The cost of regulation, however, is hidden, but it is a job killer all the same. As governor, I will stand up to the overregulation forced on us by Washington, D.C.

Whether it is new health care mandates on employers, EPA overreach on carbon emissions and the Waters of the US Washington just does not get it.

Here in Nebraska, we want to set a good example. I will be asking all of my state agency directors to make it a priority to innovate ways to reduce regulatory burdens and bureaucratic delays. Proper regulation protects our health and safety. Overregulation delays progress and growth. We can do better and we will.

As we seek to create jobs, slow the growth of government, reduce taxes, and fight burdensome regulations, we must also continue to strengthen our education system. While balancing our budget, we must ensure we put a priority on proper school funding and improving educational outcomes.

In particular, I will focus on career and vocational training. There are great career opportunities all across the state. I visited Ash Grove Cement in Louisville and they were telling me if you get a 2-year electrician’s degree out of high school, you will start working for them at $22 or $23 per hour. Stay there a year and pass two tests and you will be making $28 an hour. That’s a 21-year-old making $56,000 a year plus full benefits and the start of a great career.

Every manufacturer I have talked to has said they can’t find enough skilled labor, and that is a barrier to expanding. To address this, I propose an investment in innovation.

My budget includes funding a pilot program with an investment of $250,000 each year to form a public-private partnership to create a career and vocational training program. Good-paying jobs in the skilled labor force, agriculture, and manufacturing are a great option for our young people.

As Nebraskans, we have a tradition of honoring the men and women who serve our country. My budget recommendation also includes an additional $120,000 per year for a total of more than $488,000 of tuition assistance for the patriots who serve in the Nebraska National Guard. We need to help them further their education as well.

As we work together, I want you to know about the culture we are fostering in my administration. Every day, I want my team to ask a couple of questions: How can I serve the people of Nebraska better today? What can we do to make Nebraska a place people want to be and grow our state?

If you have any questions of your own, you are welcome to contact my office at 402-471-2244 or pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov. Working together with your help and input, we can Grow Nebraska for the next generation.