LINCOLN–Senators were feeling optimistic after hearing Gov. Pete Ricketts’ State of the State address on Jan. 10. The governor’s speech outlined some of the issues he believes most important to improving life in Nebraska.
“He certainly set the right tone,” Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete said. “I was very heartened to hear him prioritize corrections.” One of Ebke’s focuses is on state corrections reform, and she proposed several bills that would reduce recidivism and improve prison conditions in past Legislative sessions. She was excited to hear the governor’s hope to invest more in the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.
Echoing his address from 2017, Ricketts’ main focus was on tax relief and job creation. His concern is that many Nebraskans are moving away because of the state’s high property taxes.
“We must help our farmers and ranchers with crushing property tax bills. We must help all Nebraskans keep more of their hard-earned money and attract more people to come to our state,” Ricketts said.
Tax relief continues to be one of the most difficult issues for senators to come to agreement upon. Senators such as Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln disagree with the governor about the degree of relief that will be effective and that higher taxes are even the reason students and other Nebraskans are choosing to leave.
“It’s true that we’re losing a lot of young people,” Morfeld said, “but [Ricketts] didn’t mention that many of them choose to leave because of things like a lack of transportation options and civil rights issues.”
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln also expressed some concern regarding the governor’s intentions for tax relief and the budget.
“Public safety costs money,” Pansing Brooks said. “Not all aspects of the government can be treated like a business. You can’t make money off of educating students.”
Another issue covered by the governor was child welfare. Ricketts is proposing an additional $35 million in the budget for the Child Welfare and Public Assistance Task Force. Both Ebke and Pansing Brooks were happy to hear that these topics are important to the governor.
“There’s been a significant increase in children entering the state’s welfare system and they need our protection,” Pansing Brooks said.
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 partnership and working together are key parts of being a Nebraskan. Though the senators know there will be many disagreements to come, they are excited to get to work.
“We’ll be seeing a lot of debating,” Ebke said, “but it will be worth it.”