By Governor Pete Ricketts
September 4, 2015
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
Over the past several months, I have shared with you some of the initiatives my administration has launched to help grow Nebraska. One of the focuses I have talked about is running government more like a business. My administration has worked to apply business principles in state government by starting to measure performance, improve operational excellence, and build a customer-friendly culture. In applying these principles, we have set metrics for agency performance, created job descriptions for cabinet-level positions, started to design new software to automate prison sentence calculations, and changed processes to improve results at the ACCESSNebraska call centers.
While measuring the performance of individual agencies is important to improve their outcomes, it is also important to measure the performance of the State of Nebraska as a whole. Just like with my agencies, measuring performance helps all Nebraskans know where we can build on our strengths and where the state has room for improvement. To this end, my office launched a new webpage titled “How Nebraska Ranks,” which shows how Nebraska ranks in five key categories: jobs and economic development; education and workforce development; fiscal strength; public safety; and health and welfare. You can view the page by visiting www.governor.nebraska.gov/statistics.
There is a lot that Nebraskans can be proud of in these rankings. In the jobs and economic development category, Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate and one of the top 10 labor force participation rates in the nation. Nebraska has invested deeply in education, and it shows with our nearly 90% high school graduation rate and the highest ACT composite score average for states testing over 80% of their students. Our state is also on firm financial footing. We boast the highly-coveted AAA bond rating which is strengthened by our very low debt per person.
The rankings also show where Nebraska has some room to improve our standing. Nebraskans pay an average of $2,592 in state taxes which puts us at 26th highest due in part to our 26th-highest-in-the-nation income taxes. Not included in this number is our property taxes. Additionally, the Tax Foundation ranks us 12th highest for property taxes. My administration is focused on putting together tax plans to address our state’s high tax climate because there is nothing competitive about being middle-of-the-pack. It presents a challenge to attracting new families and recruiting businesses to our state. This year, we were able to provide $408 million in property tax relief through the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, which is an over 45% increase over previous years. This was a good first step, but we must do more. Right now, I am working on plans, talking with tax experts, and meeting with senators as we prepare tax reform proposals for the upcoming legislative session.
As the legislative session draws closer, my administration will share more details about the next steps for tax reform and how we can work to improve Nebraska’s standing in these rankings. In the coming months, I hope to continue to hear from you. My office is continually looking for new ways to make state government more customer-focused so that it can work for you and for all Nebraskans. You can share your ideas with me by emailing my office at email@example.com or calling 402-471-2244. I look forward to hearing from you.