A historic session | Workplace of Governor Pete Ricketts

A historic session

From Governor Pete Ricketts

June 1, 2021

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Last week the legislature completed one of its most productive sessions in history. With nearly 700 bills pending for consideration, Senators and I have worked together successfully to control spending growth, provide tax breaks, invest in broadband infrastructure, and expand educational opportunities, among several other key priorities. Here are some of the highlights of a historic legislature that helped move our state the way Nebraska did.

Spend control: The next two-year budget, which the Senators and I agreed, limits spending growth to 2.4%. The four biennial budgets I’ve worked on with the legislature have an average annual growth rate of less than 2.5%. Thanks to efforts to control government spending, we’ve provided Nebraskans with over $ 1.8 billion in tax breaks over the next two years. This is the largest tax break a legislature has given in at least a quarter of a century – and probably the largest sum in the history of the state of Nebraska. This corresponds to an average of 18.5% of the state budget, which will be used for tax breaks over the next two years.

Property tax relief: The real estate tax breaks made up the bulk of the relief at this meeting. Together, lawmakers and I have provided an estimated $ 1.7 billion in property tax relief over the next two years. That includes over $ 433 million annually through the new refundable income tax credit that went into effect in 2020. That’s more than triple the $ 125 million in tax credits granted this year, the first year of the program. In addition, we increased the fund to relieve real estate tax and the financing of exemptions for homesteads.

And even more tax breaks: In addition to the real estate tax relief, the senators and I have agreed on five other important measures. We eliminated taxes on military pension income and introduced a tax exemption for 50% of Social Security income that will be rolled out gradually over time. The Senators also passed laws to lower the business tax rate in order to equalize tax rates for different types of job-creating workers. A new “Truth in Taxation” law now requires local governments to notify taxpayers if their property tax claims are expected to increase by more than 2%. Finally, property valuations will be reduced from 75% of market value to 50% of market value for the purposes of real estate tax on bond issues. This will reduce the tax burden on farmers and ranchers.

Broadband infrastructure: The legislature has approved the Broadband Bridge Act, which was introduced at my request. This will invest US $ 20 million annually in grants to expand access to high-speed broadband for 30,000 households in Nebraska over the next two years. This improved connectivity will give more Nebraskans the flexibility to work remotely, do their homework, and access telemedicine and e-commerce.

Extended educational opportunities: During this session, Senators and I expanded the educational opportunities for the next generation of Nebraskans. We have agreed to invest over $ 1 billion annually in state aid for K-12 schools. On my recommendation, lawmakers cut red tape to make it quicker and easier for licensed military spouses to get a teaching permit after moving to Nebraska. This budget creates new scholarships for private colleges and continues to fund scholarships to community colleges, state colleges, and the University of Nebraska to provide careers for students with well-paying jobs. The budget also tripled the size of the textbook loan program, allocating $ 3 million over the next two years to support textbooks for private schools.

Other big wins: Important legislative action also took place regarding pro-life tax credits, safeguards through the second amendment, health licenses, and take-away alcohol. A new tax credit for families who have a stillborn baby will help offset medical bills, funeral expenses, and costs of preparing for the baby’s arrival. Senators and I protected your Amendment 2 rights by clarifying the Firearms Transport Act and providing gun owners with better notifications and information on license renewals. At my request, the legislature has made it easier for hospitals and health care facilities to meet their staffing needs by ensuring accelerated reciprocity for many licensed health professions. Finally, lawmakers put my popular take-away alcohol enforcement ordinance into law to ensure that take-away cocktails, beer, and wine will persist beyond the pandemic.

While the legislature has made significant progress on key priorities, there is still more work to be done on a number of key issues. The legislature still has to set limits to the growth of municipal property taxes. Local government property taxes in Nebraska have increased 4.3% annually over the past decade. That might not sound like a lot, but when you put it together over 10 years it’s an increase of almost 52%. In comparison, income has increased 48% over the past decade and inflation has only increased 18.7%. If the senators do nothing, this pattern will continue.

In addition, the legislature will have to meet again later this year to complete the process of redistributing cards for congressional, legislative and other districts. The state of Nebraska has been waiting for the census data from the Biden-Harris administration for us to complete this work.

When we move into the summer, I will travel across the state to visit town halls and other community events face-to-face with you. I will be in Clay Center, Norfolk, Wahoo and Broken Bow for town halls for the next week, additional dates and times to be announced. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to contact my office at [email protected] or 402-471-2244. We are happy to hear from them!