Saying tax relief for Nebraskans is his top priority, Gov. Pete Ricketts delivered his annual State of the State address to lawmakers Jan. 14.
Ricketts focused on the strain that rising property tax valuations place on the state’s agricultural sector. He offered an example of a Nebraskan whose property tax bill increased by nearly 10 percent in one year.
“While farm incomes are subject to variation and fluctuations each year, property taxes go up and up.”
The governor encouraged lawmakers to pass a proposal this session that would make structural changes to the state’s property tax system. Such changes would help to improve the state’s “sluggish” economic growth rate, he said.
Ricketts said his proposal would tighten current spending limits on local governments, control growth within the school funding formula and limit the statewide aggregate increase in agricultural land valuations to 3 percent per year.
“I look forward to working with you to bring about tax relief to our property owners,” he said. “It is my number one priority this session.”
The governor also highlighted the importance of infrastructure to Nebraska’s economic development.
Every industry in the state depends on 21st century roads and bridges, he said, which could be achieved through passage of an initiative to provide a one-time infusion of $150 million to accelerate completion of the state’s expressway system and improve county bridges.
“Let’s help our local leaders keep and attract business,” he said. “Let’s pass the transportation infrastructure bank [proposal].”
Ricketts also acknowledged the 11 state senators who are beginning their last session due to term limits and praised the Legislature’s past work on sentencing and corrections reform.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the work that we do here in our State Capitol,” he said. “Thank you for your dedication, for the long hours you put in and the service you provide to the citizens of our state.”
Ricketts’ remarks also praised the spirit of volunteerism in Nebraska and the work that agencies have done to improve service provision across the state. He cited improvements in wait times for the AccessNebraska system and the success of a new reemployment program at the state Department of Labor.
“We are embracing new ideas to make government work and to make the business of life happen for our citizens,” he said.