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FROM THE GOVERNOR

New Year, new opportunities to strengthen Nebraska

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As we enter a new year, we face new opportunities to strengthen Nebraska. Our state will soon convene for the second session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature. I look forward to the robust debate that will fill the halls of the Capitol over the next few months as Nebraska’s senators work to deliver results for the men and women who voted them into office. These senators come from districts with diverse perspectives, and the legislation they introduce will reflect those differences. However, there are key directives that most Nebraskans back.

Enable Nebraskans to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Our historically low unemployment rate of 1.8 percent is a testament to Nebraskans’ desire to work hard and earn. From teachers to truckers, mechanics to medical professionals, farmers to fast food workers, and every profession in between, our state’s women and men invest their time and effort to better their communities and support their families. Nebraska’s tax code shouldn’t get in their way.

Last session, we provided Nebraskans with a historic level of tax relief – but there is more work to be done.

For example, we provided a tax exemption for 50% of Social Security income that will be phased in over five years. This year, we should increase that percentage and implement it sooner. We also began the process of aligning taxes on job creator income with those of taxes on individual income. I believe that needs to continue in order to fully unleash our economy.

Last legislative session, I supported LB 408 – The Property Tax Request Act. This bill would have limited the annual growth of local government property taxes to 3% -- a reasonable limit that would have prevented property tax bills from increasing faster than Nebraska’s families can afford. We nearly advanced the bill, falling just four votes short of moving it forward. Let’s do better for Nebraska this year and get property taxes under control.

Spend, but spend responsibly.

As the state works to deliver even greater tax relief, it is critical that we also control government spending at all levels. We’ve done it at the state level. Before I took office, state spending was growing at 6.5% a year—an unsustainable pace. During my time as Governor, the state has successfully limited the average annual rate of growth to 2.5%. For the sake of Nebraska’s next generation, we should find ways to spend responsibly for years to come.

That includes this year, when we have the unique task of deciding how to spend funds Nebraska received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. It’s imperative that these ARPA dollars go toward one-time projects. This is one-time money and must be spent as such. Otherwise, we risk growing government spending at an untenable rate. These funds can help our state better recover from COVID’s economic impact, strengthen public health and safety, and continue to invest in our skilled workforce. This is an excellent opportunity to fund infrastructure projects across our state that will benefit Nebraskans for generations to come.

Protect Nebraskans’ freedoms.

For liberty to flourish, Nebraska’s elected officials must continue to protect public safety.

We have an obligation to update our aging state penitentiary. The existing building was constructed in 1869. Although it’s seen moderate updates over the years, the correctional facility is outdated. For the safety of our correctional officers and inmates alike, we must pursue a modern state penitentiary.

Preventing floods and ensuring access to water for future generations to come is also an important component of Nebraska’s public safety. The Legislature’s Statewide Tourism and Recreational Water Access and Resource Sustainability (STARWARS) Special Committee has been working to identify funding opportunities to enhance areas of Nebraska – not only for tourism and economic development, but also for water sustainability and flood control. Investing proactively in our water security will mitigate the hardship, destruction, and loss of life that can accompany floods, as we know all too well.

There’s also opportunity to pass legislation that would strengthen protections of our God-given freedoms. Most fundamental is the right to life. There’s also the right to keep and bear arms, the right to religious freedom, and the right to free speech. Although these rights are already enshrined in the Constitution – and in our State Constitution — they are under attack in varying degrees. We should introduce and advance legislation that ensures Nebraskans retain all of their fundamental rights, both now and in the future.

We have a tremendous opportunity this session to enact meaningful change for our state’s communities, families, and children. I look forward to sharing more of my vision for Nebraska during my annual State of the State address on January 13.

As always, please email pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244 with any questions you may have. I’m confident that we can follow these directives by working together the Nebraska Way.

Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.

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