The Nebraska Legislature’s “short session” went much longer than usual this year due to coronavirus. While the session didn’t wrap up until August, it was worth the wait for Nebraskans. From property tax relief to career scholarships, several key priorities were achieved to help grow our state both now and for future generations.
Property Tax Relief: LB 1107 not only delivered significant property tax relief to Nebraskans, but it also reformed our business incentives and puts Nebraska in the running for a $1 billion federal investment in the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). LB 1107 is a big deal for our state. Through the programs in this bill, the state will deliver a total of $650 million in annual property tax relief. This is more than a four-fold increase in direct property tax relief from the state since I took office.
Dismemberment Abortion Ban: Nebraska is a pro-life state, and in August the Legislature took an important step to strengthen our culture of life. Senators overwhelmingly approved LB 814, a bill that ends dismemberment abortion in Nebraska. LB 814 makes it a felony crime to perform a dismemberment abortion anywhere in Nebraska, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000. Dismemberment abortion tears apart a living baby’s body limb by limb. This horrific procedure has no place in a humane, civilized society. I commend Senator Suzanne Geist, and the bill’s supporters in the Unicameral, for outlawing this barbaric practice in Nebraska.
Veterans Tax Relief: LB 153 provided tax relief on military retirement pay. This moves us closer to our goal of becoming the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. Introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer, and prioritized by Senator John Lowe, LB 153 moved through three rounds of voting without a single vote in opposition. That’s a testament to the deep respect Nebraskans have for the women and men who serve in our military. LB 153 exempts 50 percent of military retirement benefit income from state income taxation. This is an important step in keeping us competitive with surrounding states that offer tax relief on military retirement pay. Veterans and military families are some of the most dedicated, loyal citizens—they are a great fit for our patriotic communities. We want more veterans to make their home here in the Good Life.
Flood & Pandemic Relief: We also entered the session with a number of budgetary needs. For instance, our state is still recovering from the historic floods that struck Nebraska in 2019. The Legislature appropriated over $55 million to help the State meet our obligations to repair the damages. I’m happy to report that we’re rebuilding bigger and better than before the floods. This week, I’ll be in northern Nebraska to celebrate the reopening of the fully reconstructed bridge on Highway 12 that spans the Niobrara River. It has been one of the biggest rebuilds we’ve undertaken, and I applaud our team at Nebraska Department of Transportation for their work to complete it. Additionally, the Legislature approved $83.6 million in coronavirus relief funding to support Nebraska’s pandemic response.
Career Scholarships: Connecting the next generation of Nebraskans to great opportunities in our state is key to helping our kids make Nebraska their home. This year, the Legislature funded my proposal to invest in Nebraska Career Scholarships for students at our community colleges, state colleges, and university system. These scholarships will help to equip young Nebraskans to enter careers in fields with high-demand for new talent, such as engineering, healthcare, and IT. This adds to the pipeline we’ve been building to connect young Nebraskans with great-paying careers so that they can enjoy the Good Life. This pipeline starts in middle-school with the Developing Youth Talent Initiative, continues in high school career academies, and culminates in “earn-while-you-learn” apprenticeships in postsecondary education. Now, students will also have the opportunity to apply for a Career Scholarship as they prepare for to enter fields where our state has a workforce shortage.
Careers in Corrections: As a part of my budget recommendation, the Legislature also approved a one-of-a-kind workforce education partnership between the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) and Peru State College. The program will use an apprenticeship model to train students to take on key roles at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. The initiative is tailored to students interested in careers in criminal justice with a focus on corrections leadership, and it gives them on-the-job experience as part of their degree plan. It’s exactly the kind of forward-thinking approach we need to prepare for our future workforce needs as well as to keep Nebraska’s graduates here for their careers.
As you can see, we’ve made great progress in providing tax relief, protecting life, and delivering important flood relief—along with other critical priorities. If you have questions about the bills passed in the 2020 legislative session, or the adjustments to our 2020-2021 fiscal year budget, please email email@example.com or call 402-471-2244. Despite big challenges along the way, I’m thankful for everything Nebraska has accomplished so far in 2020. I’m confident that we’ll finish the year strong as we continue to work to get Nebraska growing.
Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.
Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.
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