By Governor Pete Ricketts
January 5, 2016
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
Each New Year is a time to reflect on the last year and plan for next year. This is a special year at home for us, because my twins will enter their senior year of high school this fall. Between their work and school schedules, and my calendar, we cherish every moment we have together. Susanne and I hope the principles we have worked to impart to them–hard work, respect for others, and keeping your word–will serve them well as adults.
One of the reasons Nebraska is a great place to raise a family is because of the principles that Nebraskans share. We also value personal responsibility and common sense, and we don’t spend money we don’t have.
Our State Senators, who share these values and advocate for them, give of their time to represent their neighbors and serve taxpayers. This week, they will return to Lincoln for the second session of the 104th Legislature. During this session, senators will have the opportunity to deliver much-needed property tax relief, prioritize spending, and define strategies to grow Nebraska for future generations.
Our Unicameral Legislature has a proud history. Established in 1937, the Unicameral remains the only non-partisan, one-house legislative body in the United States. By law, we balance our budget, and we cannot borrow money to achieve this like the federal government. We work together to actually pass a budget each year—something that does not happen in many states. These traditions work to keep the State Capitol focused on fiscal responsibility.
This summer and fall, I held more than 20 town hall meetings across Nebraska, and people were clear and consistent on the need for property tax relief. State Senators tell me they hear the same thing in their districts. Last session we put $408 million into the property tax relief fund, a 45 percent increase over previous years. I believe property taxes are the number one issue we need to address this session, and I have been working with legislative leaders to make more progress on this for taxpayers.
There are many other priorities that will be considered in this short session. The $154 million reduction in the revenue forecast means we must work together to balance the budget and constrain the growth of government. With only 60 days to consider other issues like education funding, infrastructure, religious freedom, marijuana legalization, and another effort to expand Medicaid in Nebraska, this session will move quickly.
This session, however, is significant beyond the issues at hand. This is the last session for 11 term-limited senators who answered the noble calling of public service. Our appreciation goes out to Speaker Galen Hadley and Senators Dave Bloomfield, Kathy Campbell, Colby Coash, Tanya Cook, Mike Gloor, Ken Haar, Beau McCoy, Heath Mello, Ken Schilz, and Kate Sullivan. These senators have given of themselves to serve our great state and their constituents, and we are all grateful for their contribution to our democracy.
As the session opens, I ask that you contribute to democracy by engaging with those of us serving you. Please stay in touch with my office and with your senator’s office about how we can represent you best. You can find contact information for your senator by visiting www.NebraskaLegislature.gov, and you can reach my office by emailing email@example.com or calling 402-471-2244. I provide updates about important bills on my website, so please be sure to watch www.Governor.Nebraska.gov in the coming weeks and months.