By Governor Pete Ricketts
April 26, 2016
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
Each year, citizen legislators from across Nebraska gather in Lincoln to balance the budget and work on important priorities for our state. Last week, the second session of the 104th Nebraska Legislature concluded. This year, the Legislature and I had a very successful session. We were able to accomplish all four important priorities I laid out for the session in my State of the State address back in January as well as prevent bad legislation from passing. The work we did together on the budget, tax relief, roads, and healthcare will help our state grow and protect our state’s budget and taxpayers from unnecessary risks.
By law, one of the only requirements the Legislature has to complete in any session is balancing the state budget. While senators and I differed on some of the specifics about how taxpayer dollars should be spent, we were able to cut the rate of growth in state spending significantly. Together, the Legislature and I held the rate of growth in state spending to 3.6 percent down from 6.5 percent or about half the previous rate of growth. Holding the rate of growth in state spending down is critical to providing opportunities for tax relief in the coming years.
My top priority for this session was providing property tax relief for Nebraska’s hardworking families. At the State Fair last year, I began discussions with the Legislature’s Education Chairwoman Kate Sullivan and Revenue Chairman Mike Gloor about building a property tax relief package. After hearings, debate, and compromises, the Legislature and I settled on a tax package that provides $20 million in direct property tax credits to farmers and ranchers. It also makes changes to the state’s education funding formula, increases school aid, and allows more schools to become eligible for school aid.
In addition to balancing the budget and providing tax relief, I also worked with the Transportation Committee to develop the Transportation Innovation Act (TIA). This program will help accelerate completion of our state’s expressway system, provide funds to repair county bridges, and dedicate resources to infrastructure projects that will help growing and expanding businesses. These investments will fund key infrastructure priorities for Nebraska for years to come. Capitol observers who have tracked infrastructure investments over the years described the passage of the TIA as “historic” and “landmark.”
In the last few months, the Legislature has prudently voted down several bad pieces of legislation. One of the most significant bills they rejected would have expanded Medicaid under Obamacare in Nebraska. As proposed, this bill would have cost Nebraska taxpayers almost $1 billion in new state spending in the first 10 years. Additionally, Medicaid spending for our state’s existing program already makes up a growing share of our state budget, and expansion would have exposed our state budget to unnecessary risk. This is the fourth time the Legislature has wisely decided against expansion in four years, and I will continue to work with senators to protect our state’s budget in future sessions.
In the coming weeks and months, I will be listening to you as well as meeting and working with my agencies and with senators as I develop new initiatives to pursue in next year’s session. I am committed to holding the rate of growth in state spending even lower, so that we can continue to provide tax relief for hardworking Nebraskans like you in the coming years. If you have ideas that you would like to share for next year, I hope you will contact my office at 402-471-2244 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.