Gov. Pete Ricketts called the just-concluded legislative session a success, despite the failure of his top priority: tax relief.
Ricketts praised the legislature during his end-of-the-session speech, reminding lawmakers the state budget was likely the most important work they did.
“You may all recall that last January people were talking about a $900 million problem that we had to solve,” Ricketts told legislators gathered for the final day of the 2017 session. “And, working together, we did something that was unprecedented. No one can ever remember when we have passed two budget bills in one legislative session.”
Lawmakers first adopted a budget to get through the current fiscal year, then began work on the upcoming two-year budget.
Legislators approved the Appropriations Committee recommendation to cut approximately $700 million, transfer $173 Million from the state “rainy day” fund, sweep cash reserves from a number of state agencies, and lower the minimum budget reserve from 3% to 2 ½% to deal with the drastic drop in state revenue.
Ricketts used his line-item budget veto authority to cut an additional $56.5 million and restore the 3% minimum reserve. Lawmakers attempted to restore some of the cuts, but failed to override any of the governor’s budget vetoes.
“And we demonstrated Nebraska grit by coming together to prioritize the funding for K through 12 schools, property tax relief, corrections reform, and making the tough decisions,” according to Ricketts.
Ricketts pointed out a tax relief package he backed failed to overcome a filibuster by opponents.
“The tax bill failed to advance this year,” Ricketts told lawmakers. “We need to continue to work on how we’re going to provide that tax relief to our Nebraska families.”
Ricketts had proposed a cut in the top state income tax rate and a change in how agricultural land is assessed for property tax purposes.
The legislative session ended earlier than its scheduled 90 days, adjourning on the 86th day.
AUDIO: Gov. Ricketts speech on the last day of the legislative session. [14:30]