Nebraska Gov Pete Ricketts delivered his final State of the State Address Thursday morning and with it, his last state budget proposal.
Ricketts, who is term-limited, said the state of the state is strong despite the challenges of the past two years, starting with extreme weather and followed up by the pandemic.
Ricketts told lawmakers he’s ready to work with them in the 2022 session set to end in April.
Ricketts said he expects to “fine-tune” the 2-year budget passed last year, but opposes large spending increases except for one-time items such as infrastructure and water projects. The governor laid out his 4 priorities for the session.
Ricketts praised the way Nebraskans for the way the state handled the pandemic with a much bigger and faster economic recovery that has sent hundreds of millions of dollars into reserves – making it possible to increase property tax relief and cut income taxes.
He proposed dropping the top bracket rate for corporations and individuals to 5.84% from the 7.25% corporate and 6.84% individual rates taking effect next year. It would cut state revenue by $178.8-million by 2025.
On public safety, Ricketts wants to increase spending for the higher salaries and bonuses for prison staff approved last year in a new contract, and he wants money for two facilities that support law enforcement.
Ricketts supports building a new prison, now estimated at $236-million dollars, rather than renovating the 153-year old State Penitentiary to the tune of at least $220-million with no expansion in space.
Ricketts also lobbied for $700-million dollars in water projects to be funded by a combination of reservations and federal stimulus funds, and he laid out in general terms where he wants to use those federal monies.
The governor concluded by calling on the senators to work with him and each other to accomplish great things this session.
Immediately after delivering his State of the State Address, Ricketts began a 2-day, 5-city flying tour of the state to expand on his proposals. One of his stops was the Western Nebraska Regional Airport in Scottsbluff.
Among the proposals he talked about was the $500-million South Platte River Canal he unveiled earlier in the week, and his plans for cutting the top income tax rate and continuing to expand property tax relief.
Ricketts told the audience about his vision for his final year in office and for what he may do after that. He also repeated his opposition with the new mask mandate in Omaha and why the state is challenging it in court.