Gov. Pete Ricketts praises lawmakers for working with him on keeping state spending down while acknowledging he doesn’t always agree with them on the direction to take Nebraska.
In his farewell to legislators on the last day of the session, Ricketts focused on where the two branches of government agreed.
“My priorities for the session were cutting the growth of government and providing property tax relief,” Ricketts told the Unicameral as it wrapped up business for the 2015 legislative session.
The legislature approved an $8.6 billion state budget for the next two years during the 90-day session. Lawmakers held state revenue growth in the budget bills to 3.1% growth, an extra $400 million. That increased to around 3.5% after other bills with price tags passed.
The budget increases funding to the property tax relief fund by $120 million over the two-year period.
Ricketts said that was a start.
“We can and must do more. You know, I’ve always said we didn’t get to be a high tax state overnight and we’re not going to solve those problems overnight, either,” Ricketts stated. “Bunts and singles are a good start, but we must make meaningful tax relief a priority for the next session.”
The legislature did not approve the governor’s proposal to reduce the percentage at which farmland is taxed from the current 75% of market value to 65%.
Ricketts praised the Unicameral for giving nurse practitioners more flexibility, enacting a pilot program for career and vocational training for the young, and eliminating the “cliff effect” that cut public assistance for those getting a raise or a new job.
Ricketts didn’t mention specifics in acknowledging differences with the legislature.
“Now, we didn’t always agree in the past several months on the direction to take the state and in the future we may not agree as well. But, we can never lose sight of the people who sent us here.”
State lawmakers overrode three high-profile vetoes by Ricketts and, in doing so, repealed the death penalty, raised the gas tax, and authorized the children of illegal immigrants to apply for state driver’s licenses.
AUDIO: Gov. Pete Ricketts gives his farewell address to the Unicameral. [8 min.]