On January 22nd, I presented my budget recommendations and announced key initiatives in my first State of the State address to the Unicameral. Gerry Oligmueller, the State Budget Administrator, and I took our message on the road to nine communities across the state from Chadron to Beatrice, so that Nebraskans could hear my recommendations first hand and provide their feedback about the proposals.
While Nebraskans have differing political philosophies or come from different ends of the state, I know we are united. We are united in our desire to make Nebraska a better place for our communities and for our children and grandchildren. We are united in our desire to make Nebraska a place where people want to be.
I’m eager to work with the Unicameral on four major priorities to Grow Nebraska: First, strengthening our economy and creating jobs; second, reducing taxes; third, easing regulatory burdens; and additionally, expanding educational opportunities. All of these priorities are interconnected and are reflected in my budget recommendation. This week’s column will focus on the first two priorities.
Because it is so important that we boost our economic engine and create jobs, one of my administration’s first steps was to conduct a national job search for a new Director of Economic Development. I’m proud to have Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, join my team. Her expertise will help us realize the untapped potential in our state, and we will be well-served with her track record of recruiting businesses. We want the world to know Nebraska welcomes business investment and has good jobs in great communities, and Brenda will help get the message out.
Creating jobs is more than just a marketing focus. We need to evaluate what we are doing to encourage small business to expand and grow. We need to have a plan to attract business investment as well as business relocations. We need to be strategic and aggressive about trade opportunities.
Job creation, in part, depends on a tax climate that encourages growth. We have a lot of work to do to stay competitive with neighboring states. And staying competitive is something that is often overlooked when we talk about jobs. We need to attract new individuals and families to Nebraska. We have long discussed the problem of brain drain, and I can tell you as a dad that I want all roads to lead back to Nebraska. To do that we need to remove the obstacles.
This is one reason why we must reduce taxes. Our high tax reality does not just hit the wallets of our citizens—it creates a reputation. It discourages new business investment. Our high taxes also discourage people from choosing Nebraska as a place to live, work and raise a family.
There is one consistent message I have heard in every corner of the state: property taxes are too high. My budget adds $60 million each year to the property tax credit relief fund—an increase of nearly 43 percent—for a grand total of $400 million in property tax relief this biennium. This property tax relief will help all Nebraskans: homeowners, small business owners, and our farmers and ranchers. I also want to work with you to reduce the agriculture land valuation for property taxation purposes. I have funded a phased in approach in my budget to reduce valuations from 75% to 65%.
We did not get to be a high tax state overnight, and we won’t get taxes down overnight either. But together, we can take important steps toward providing tax relief.
Everywhere I traveled across our state this past week, I found Nebraskans eager to work together to find meaningful property tax relief this legislative session. In next week’s column, I’ll share with you some of my ideas about how to fight against burdensome regulation and to expand educational opportunities.
Until then, you are welcome to contact my office at 402-471-2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to the hearing your thoughts about how we can Grow Nebraska.