Gov. Pete Ricketts insists the state can balance its budget without raising taxes by slowing state government growth using targeted budget cuts.
Ricketts says he decided against across-the-board budget cuts to deal with slumping state tax revenues, instead opting to make targeted cuts.
“We went agency-by-agency talking to them about what are their priorities, what are the services they have to deliver, and where does that fall with regard to the budget?” Ricketts tells reporters in a post-State of the State address news conference.
Ricketts has proposed a $9 billion budget for the next two years, spending $4.4 billion in the General Fund.
Public school funding would actually increase under the governor’s proposed 2017-2019 biennium budget. State aid would increase by $90.3 million over the two fiscal years, bringing total state spending on public schools to $2.05 billion.
The Department of Correctional Services would be untouched by cuts under the proposal as the administration works to address problems in the state prison system. More would be spent on workforce programing and security. The governor proposes transferring $75 million from cash reserves to build a new Reception and Treatment Center at the Lincoln Correctional Center.
Higher education would be cut.
The University of Nebraska system would be cut by two percent under the governor’s proposal. State colleges would be cut by 1.4% and community colleges would be cut by 3%.
Certain Medicaid providers would receive 3% less in reimbursements under the proposals.
Even as he pushes budget cuts, Ricketts is taking another stab at reducing property taxes on farmers and ranchers, proposing to change the method of assessment on agricultural land from a market-driven model to one driven by the potential income the land could produce under production agriculture.
Ricketts is proposing a new tact in an effort to push through the resistance lawmakers have displayed the past couple of years as they eyed declining state tax revenue.
“If the Legislature doesn’t like the ideas we propose, we’re going to keep coming back with new ideas to try and bring that tax relief to Nebraskans.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]