By Governor Pete Ricketts
April 23, 2018
Official photo here.
Last week, Senators wrapped up the Second Session of the 105th Legislature in Lincoln. With the conclusion of the session, Senators delivered several notable priorities to my desk, which will help keep our state moving forward. From balancing the budget and tax relief to cutting red tape and raising speed limits, several areas saw progress.
Coming into this legislative session, we started with a $200 million gap between budgeted spending and projected state revenues. Together, Senators and I successfully worked to constrain spending. When I entered office in 2015, government spending was growing at 6.5 percent a year, which was simply unsustainable. After years of hard work, we have been able to cut the rate of growth in state spending by over 90 percent. With these new budget adjustments, state spending will grow at just 0.5 percent. Even while we cut spending, we were able to make additional investments in child welfare, public safety, and aid to people with developmental disabilities. This budget also contains new pro-life language, which ensures that your Title X tax dollars do not fund abortion services.
Cutting taxes has been a top priority for me each year I have been Governor. While Senators failed to act on my property tax relief proposal this year, Senator Jim Smith of Papillion and Senator Brett Lindstrom of Omaha successfully delivered three important tax relief bills, which I signed. The Department of Revenue and my team worked with Senators on LB 1090, which made adjustments to our tax code necessitated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed by Congress last fall. Among many other provisions, LB 1090 restores Nebraska’s personal exemption credit that was eliminated in the TCJA. Our state credit was based on a now-eliminated federal exemption, and the Legislature acted to restore the credit and prevent a $200 million tax hike on Nebraska families. Two other bills I signed indexed state tax rates for Social Security income for inflation and prevented a tax increase on personal property.
This year, Senators and I continued our work on occupational licensing reform. Senator Suzanne Geist of Lincoln helped eliminate a duplicative permit for school bus drivers, and Senator John Murante of Grenta helped streamline requirements for abstracters. Senator Mike Groene of North Platte garnered significant attention for his successful effort to repeal licensing requirements for animal massage therapists. These bills build on our work of the past two years which has cut red tape and eliminated onerous requirements in numerous professional fields to help create more opportunity for Nebraskans.
Senators also took action to make speed limits on state highways more consistent. Senator John Murante and I worked together on LB 1009, which authorizes the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to increase speed limits on highways, freeways, and expressways to create more consistent traveling speeds statewide. With this law, NDOT will use engineering and driver expectation research to bring uniformity to the system. Speeds on four-lane divided highways and designated stretches of two-lane highways will be approved up to 65 mph while the maximum speed limit on four-lane expressways and potential future super-2 highways is authorized to increase to 70 mph.
These are just a few examples of the positive outcomes from this legislative session. As evidenced by the successes from this session, we can move our state forward when we work together. While important things were accomplished over the past few months, there are still big priorities that must be addressed. One of the biggest areas we need to continue to work on is tax relief. Over the interim, I will be working on plans to bring rural and urban Senators together to deliver property tax relief. If you have other priorities you would like to share, I hope you will take the time to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244.