Gov. Ricketts Gives State of the State Address

Elias Hubbard
January 13, 2018

Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled his revised budget plan and new property and income tax proposals during his State of the State address Wednesday.

In his annual State of the State speech, he touted the proposals as doing "what's right for hard-working Nebraskans" and for the state's future.

Having just begun the second session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature, the senators responded overall positively to Ricketts' attitude of perseverance and his statements that partnerships and working together are key parts of being a Nebraskan.

But tax relief continues to be one of the most hard issues for senators to come to agreement upon.

Ricketts added that over the next 10 years, the state expects the bill to provide more than $4 billion in property tax relief to ag producers and home owners.

"I'm happy to report that the state of the state is strong and growing", he said, listing several economic development projects and worldwide trade deals.

Those spending cuts won't reduce the state's investment in K-12 education, which he recommended maintain its current funding under the state aid formula, the Department of Corrections, which will see a almost $6 million investment to build 100 new prison beds, or aid to the state's population of developmentally disabled individuals.

The governor's proposal takes advantage of a newly relaxed policy from Congress past year that gives states more leeway in determining the distribution of Title X funds, which are federal funds earmarked for providing family planning and related health services such as contraception.

"A cut of this magnitude would make it hard for us to remain affordable for our 53,000 students and meet the workforce and economic needs of the state", Bounds said in a statement. The cuts would be 2 percent for the last half of the current fiscal year and 4 percent for the fiscal year starting July 1. The first challenge, he said, is dealing with the budget. Lawmakers reduced some state spending, slowed the growth of other spending and tapped various cash funds to make that budget balance.

"There's been a significant increase in children entering the state's welfare system and they need our protection", Pansing Brooks said. The money is needed because of a 9 percent increase in the number of children coming into state care. But Bolz said another is that the Department of Health and Human Services is not meeting legal requirements to reduce caseloads for child welfare workers, resulting in high turnover. He also is proposing to add 100 new prison beds with $5.8 million left over from a previously approved prison construction project.

"However, proposing further revenue cuts shows a failure to learn the harsh lessons of the past".

Ricketts is recommending an additional $35 million to child welfare and public assistance this year and next year.

Outside groups had decidedly mixed reactions.

But it was on taxes that Ricketts made possibly his most far-reaching proposals.

Even though Nebraska has seen some growth in the previous year, the Governor says we still have some obstacles ahead. These states have sought to redirect that funding to other community healthcare centers, which provide more expansive services than Planned Parenthood and outnumber the abortion chain by at least 20 to 1.

He said he wants to keep the family planning dollars from being used for abortion. "I believe he's willing to work more on common ground".

Meg Mikolajczyk, associate general counsel for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the language represented a "focused, blatant attack" on Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood said those funds can't be used for abortion and it doesn't do so; opponents argue providing funds to Planned Parenthood indirectly supports abortions by supporting an organization that provides them.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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