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Governor touts efforts ahead of Chamber banquet

October 11, 2018

Gov. Pete Ricketts touted his administration’s priorities during Wednesday’s weekly meeting of the North Platte Noon Rotary Club, previewing themes he’s expected to repeat at tonight’s North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corp. annual banquet.

The Omaha businessman laid out his first-term efforts “to grow Nebraska” by developing the state’s young people, ensuring that businesses find state government “easy to do business with,” controlling spending and taxes and promoting Nebraska to would-be residents and business partners.

“We’ve got to go out and tell the world that we’ve got the best place in the world here in Nebraska,” Ricketts told Rotarians at Another Round Sports Bar and Grill at River’s Edge Golf Course.

Ricketts, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 6, also renewed his opposition to expanding eligibility for Nebraska’s Medicaid program in response to an audience question on the initiative proposal voters will face on Election Day.

Though Nebraskans need lower health care costs, the governor said, Initiative 427 would instead limit health care choices for the “truly needy” senior citizens, disabled Nebraskans and children who now receive state Medicaid benefits.

The measure, proposed by a petition drive after stalling in the Legislature, would expand eligibility to Nebraskans ages 19 to 64 whose income is at or under 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Ricketts contended that would both explode the state budget and allow “single, able-bodied adults” to crowd out current recipients by competing for the same health providers who accept Medicaid.

Such people “could quit their job, drop the private health insurance, get free health care from the state and sit home,” he said. “So it’s a disincentive to work.”

The governor made no references during his Rotary appearance to his Nov. 6 opponent, outgoing State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, who changed his registration from Republican to independent and then to Democrat before winning the latter party’s nomination in the May 15 primary.

Ricketts cited this year’s 1.7 percent growth in Nebraska’s pot for state school aid — compared with an overall 0.5 percent increase in the state budget — as a sign that K-12 education remains a priority for state government.

Ricketts said the Developing Youth Talent Initiative, unveiled in February, touts the careers young Nebraskans can pursue without moving away. He called community colleges “a great way to be able to get your degree, get your education, but not get all the debt that goes along with going straight into college,” referring to two North Platte High School seniors who earlier told Rotarians they plan to enter community colleges after graduation.

During his first term, the governor said, he’s sought to ensure that “we’re not putting up any unnecessary obstacles for job creators.” Among other examples, he cited North Platte Sen. Mike Groene’s successful bill last session (LB 596) that exempts practitioners of equine massage from regulation by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“It was actually harder to become somebody licensed to massage horses here in Nebraska ... than it was to (be licensed to) massage a person,” Ricketts said.

He renewed his often-stated pledge to work for lasting tax relief for Nebraskans, despite the failure of multipronged tax bills during the last two legislative sessions. “We’ve got to continue to work to find that formula that is going to allow us to get past the filibusters” in the Legislature, he said.

Property taxes remain “the No. 1 issue people are talking about,” Ricketts said, citing the state’s property tax credit fund and budget discipline as evidence of his administration’s dedication.

“There’s no silver bullet to having tax relief,” he said. “What you have to do is you have to control spending. That’s the only way to have sustainable tax relief.”

During a question-and-answer period, he said that the estimated $30 million to $40 million the state should soon start seeing in online sales taxes should be completely dedicated to property tax relief. The Nebraska Department of Revenue has directed online retailers to start collecting the tax by Jan. 1, though Ricketts expects senators will introduce bills on the subject as well.

Finally, the governor noted his multiple trips overseas to promote exports of Nebraska products, notably to Japan and China. The state’s meat exports to Japan rose by 26 percent for beef and 46 percent for pork between 2016 and 2017, and Nebraska accounted for 56 percent of all U.S. beef sold in China before this year’s U.S.-China trade war, he said.

By Todd von Kampentodd.vonkampen@nptelegraph.comGov. Pete Ricketts touted his administration’s priorities during Wednesday’s weekly meeting of the North Platte Noon Rotary Club, previewing themes he’s expected to repeat at tonight’s North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corp. annual banquet.The Omaha businessman laid out his first-term efforts “to grow Nebraska” by developing the state’s young people, ensuring that businesses find state government “easy to do business with,” controlling spending and taxes and promoting Nebraska to would-be residents and business partners.“We’ve got to go out and tell the world that we’ve got the best place in the world here in Nebraska,” Ricketts told Rotarians at Another Round Sports Bar and Grill at River’s Edge Golf Course.Ricketts, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 6, also renewed his opposition to expanding eligibility for Nebraska’s Medicaid program in response to an audience question on the initiative proposal voters will face on Election Day.Though Nebraskans need lower health care costs, the governor said, Initiative 427 would instead limit health care choices for the “truly needy” senior citizens, disabled Nebraskans and children who now receive state Medicaid benefits. The measure, proposed by a petition drive after stalling in the Legislature, would expand eligibility to Nebraskans ages 19 to 64 whose income is at or under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Ricketts contended that would both explode the state budget and allow “single, able-bodied adults” to crowd out current recipients by competing for the same health providers who accept Medicaid. Such people “could quit their job, drop the private health insurance, get free health care from the state and sit home,” he said. “So it’s a disincentive to work.”The governor made no references during his Rotary appearance to his Nov. 6 opponent, outgoing State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, who changed his registration from Republican to independent and then to Democrat before winning the latter party’s nomination in the May 15 primary.Ricketts cited this year’s 1.7 percent growth in Nebraska’s pot for state school aid — compared with an overall 0.5 percent increase in the state budget — as a sign that K-12 education remains a priority for state government.Ricketts said the Developing Youth Talent Initiative, unveiled in February, touts the careers young Nebraskans can pursue without moving away. He called community colleges “a great way to be able to get your degree, get your education, but not get all the debt that goes along with going straight into college,” referring to two North Platte High School seniors who earlier told Rotarians they plan to enter community colleges after graduation.During his first term, the governor said, he’s sought to ensure that “we’re not putting up any unnecessary obstacles for job creators.” Among other examples, he cited North Platte Sen. Mike Groene’s successful bill last session (LB 596) that exempts practitioners of equine massage from regulation by the state Department of Health and Human Services.“It was actually harder to become somebody licensed to massage horses here in Nebraska ... than it was to (be licensed to) massage a person,” Ricketts said. He renewed his often-stated pledge to work for lasting tax relief for Nebraskans, despite the failure of multipronged tax bills during the last two legislative sessions. “We’ve got to continue to work to find that formula that is going to allow us to get past the filibusters” in the Legislature, he said.Property taxes remain “the No. 1 issue people are talking about,” Ricketts said, citing the state’s property tax credit fund and budget discipline as evidence of his administration’s dedication. “There’s no silver bullet to having tax relief,” he said. “What you have to do is you have to control spending. That’s the only way to have sustainable tax relief.”During a question-and-answer period, he said that the estimated $30 million to $40 million the state should soon start seeing in online sales taxes should be completely dedicated to property tax relief. The Nebraska Department of Revenue has directed online retailers to start collecting the tax by Jan. 1, though Ricketts expects senators will introduce bills on the subject as well.Finally, the governor noted his multiple trips overseas to promote exports of Nebraska products, notably to Japan and China. The state’s meat exports to Japan rose by 26 percent for beef and 46 percent for pork between 2016 and 2017, and Nebraska accounted for 56 percent of all U.S. beef sold in China before this year’s U.S.-China trade war, he said.

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