Gov. Ricketts, Senators Declare 2016 Legislative Session “Very Successful”
When asked to rate the governor’s performance at the end of his second legislative session, key state senators and State Capitol observers agreed Ricketts made significant improvement. They gave the Republican governor high marks for setting clear objectives, working with lawmakers to achieve his goals and being willing to compromise to get something done.
“His top priorities were all enacted into law,” said Sen. John Murante of Gretna. “He had a very successful year.”
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln said she thought the governor and his staff did better in communicating and working with lawmakers this year. She listed the property tax bills as examples of his success.
“While the bills were changed from introduction to final passage, he sees them and I see them as a win,” Pansing Brooks said.
Ricketts said he was happy with this year's session, pointing to a $20 million funding increase for property tax credits, a new state budget, road-funding legislation and the defeat of a Medicaid expansion bill.
"We were four for four on the priorities we laid out," he said.
Lincoln Journal-Star: Ricketts ties conservative goals to two terms
"We went four for four," Ricketts said, in achieving his priorities during this year's legislative session, which adjourned on Wednesday.
State spending growth that stood at 6.5 percent when he took office has been cut almost in half, to 3.6 percent, the governor said.
Another increase in state property tax credits will ease the property tax load for farm and ranch landowners, Ricketts said, even though he didn't gain all the property tax reduction he initially proposed.
And an education bill centering on the Omaha area also came with property tax benefits attached.
Creation of an infrastructure bank will accelerate highway construction with completion of long-promised expressways, Ricketts said.
Meanwhile, the Legislature rejected a health care reform bill funded predominantly by federal Medicaid dollars that would have presented "a huge, long-term risk to our state budget," Ricketts said.
"It was a team effort," the governor emphasized, pointing to legislative committee chairpersons as vital partners in achieving his agenda.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts called the session “very successful” and pointed to lawmakers acting on a number of his priorities: holding spending growth to 3.6 percent, delivering property tax relief and defeating Medicaid expansion for the fourth time.
Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley of Kearney praised the accomplishments as well, listing continued prison reform, property tax relief, roads funding and the revamping of the Learning Community.
“I do believe we accomplished a lot,” he said.
All told, Hadley said, lawmakers passed 216 bills this year and enacted an additional 66 by amending them into legislation that passed.
Lawmakers and Gov. Pete Ricketts focused on the positive as the Legislature adjourned for the year Wednesday, but they also acknowledged the work that lies ahead.
“I think all-in-all we did our jobs this year,” Speaker Galen Hadley of Kearney told colleagues as the day drew to a close.
The Legislature passed 216 bills and another 66 by attaching amendments to those measures. They included a revised state budget, more aid for property taxpayers and roads funding to accelerate completion of Nebraska's expressway system.
Ricketts called those "huge wins."