Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts takes the oath of office Thursday afternoon, becoming the state’s first new governor in 10 years.
Ricketts won a tight race in the Republican primary, then cruised to an easy victory to become the successor to Gov. Dave Heineman.
Ricketts has been busy studying the state budget during the transition period, spending more than the 80 hours scheduled poring over the numbers.
“A lot of policy gets driven by the budget, right? So, understanding what we’re doing within state government is important,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Also, Ricketts has promised to seek reduction in state taxes and he says to have sustainable tax cuts, the state must be able to control the growth of state government.
“To do that, you have to understand what’s going on in the budget,” Ricketts says.
A deadline also looms.
Ricketts must submit a proposed budget to the Unicameral by February 1st. The budget process then begins in earnest.
Ricketts hopes to deal with problems that have arisen with two state agencies: the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Correctional Services.
HHS has been under fire for a troubled move to privatize child welfare services as well as recurring financial problems. Corrections has been plagued by bulging prison populations and the prison sentence miscalculation scandal.
Ricketts has engaged national search firms to help find new leadership for HHS, Corrections, and the Department of Economic Development.
Ted Ford Webb with Ford Webb Associates of Concord, Massachusetts will help identify candidates for HHS and Corrections.
Todd Jorgenson with Jorgenson Consulting of Greensboro, North Carolina will aid in the search for a new director for the Department of Economic Development.
Candidates will be forwarded to Ricketts and his Chief of Staff, Matt Miltenberger who will select who to interview.
Ricketts says the search firms will prove invaluable in filling the positions, especially for Corrections which has come under harsh criticism over the past year.
“To really bring that leader in who can help analyze what’s going on right now in the Corrections system; be able to give us some good advice,” Ricketts says. “And this is where I think that we’ve got to earn back the public’s trust and the trust of the Unicameral as well.”
Ricketts says he’s ready to take the oath and officially begin.
“Absolutely, absolutely. It will also clear up some of the confusion when people go, now what do I call you right now, Gov.-elect seems like that’s a mouthful,” Ricketts says with a laugh.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]