Tax relief, prisons and water policy top governor’s priority list

Gov. Pete Ricketts revealed his upcoming budgetary and legislative priorities in his State of the State address to lawmakers Jan. 13. Top priorities outlined by the governor include property tax relief, construction of a new state penitentiary and a new water reservoir system.

“Through the years, the guiding light of my administration has remained the same: to grow
Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “And, despite weathering floods, fires and a global pandemic, we have
done just that.”

By the end of fiscal year 2023, he said, Nebraska is anticipated to have an estimated $1.5
billion in its Cash Reserve Fund.

“This is the people’s money, and we must support tax relief that puts this money back into the
pockets of the people,” Ricketts said.

Accelerating the phase-in of Social Security tax exemptions to five years, instead of the current
ten-year period, would allow older Nebraskans to keep more of their hard-earned money, he said.
Additionally, Ricketts said, the individual tax rate should be reduced by one percent over the
next five years.

Citing public safety concerns, the governor proposed spending $16.9 million to enhance the state
crime lab and an additional $47.7 million toward expansion of the Law Enforcement Training
Center in Grand Island, in addition to funding a new state penitentiary.

“The existing state penitentiary was built over 150 years ago. Its walls are crumbling and its
infrastructure has aged beyond simple repair. A modern facility will give our inmates a better
quality of life,” Ricketts said.

The governor also recommended $500 million be spent on construction of a canal and reservoir
system from the South Platte River to protect quality drinking water, keep electric generating
costs manageable and ensure farm and ranch production.

“If we fail to secure our supply from the South Platte River, we could expect to lose 90 percent
of the water that currently comes to us from Colorado,” he said. “We must act to preserve,
protect, manage and steward our water supply for our future Nebraskans.”

Ricketts’ proposed budget also includes an additional $200 million for water projects presented
by the Statewide Tourism and Recreational Water Access and Resource Sustainability
Committee, also known as STAR WARS, which he said would secure access to water and
advance state tourism.

Finally, the governor proposed a number of one-time initiatives for allocating Nebraska’s $1.04
billion share of federal coronavirus relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Among his
priorities are securing funds for low-income children who have experienced learning loss due to
the pandemic and funding behavioral health and nursing incentives.

“I look forward to the challenge, opportunity and honor of working with you,” Ricketts said.
“Remember, Nebraska is what America is supposed to be.”

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