Nebraska Gov. Ricketts pledges to collaborate with lawmakers
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Pete Ricketts promised Thursday to work collaboratively with lawmakers on major priorities in the upcoming legislative session, including a new push to reduce property taxes and attract jobs to Nebraska.
The Republican governor’s remarks came after he took the oath office to serve a second and final four-year term.
“We’re going to have to work hard, and work together,” Ricketts said in his inaugural address. “We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, use a little bit of Nebraska grit. But I’m confident that working together, we can address the priorities of Nebraskans in the next weeks, months and years.”
Lawmakers began a new session Wednesday with an expected focus on the state’s tax revenue shortfall and mounting pressure to reduce property taxes, a major complaint of farmers, ranchers and homeowners. Ricketts will unveil his proposed budget and reveal more of his agenda on Tuesday, when he delivers his annual State of the State address.
Ricketts has already unveiled some of his proposals, including an expanded tax exemption for military retirees and a scholarship program for college students who choose to major in math, engineering and other high-demand fields.
Ricketts urged lawmakers to maintain tight reins on state spending and provide funding for his property tax package.
“I’m asking for your help in enacting this vision to grow Nebraska,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Mike Foley was also sworn in to office, along with Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Stephanie Stacy, Secretary of State Bob Evnen, State Treasurer John Murante, State Auditor Charlie Janssen and Attorney General Doug Peterson.
Also taking their oaths were Nebraska Public Service Commissioner Tim Schram, State Board of Education members Maureen Nickels and Robin Stevens, and University of Nebraska Regents Elizabeth O’Connor, Rob Schafer and Barbara Weitz.
Lawmakers kicked off their first day of bill introductions on Thursday with 135 bills and two constitutional amendments. Some of the proposals would legalize medical marijuana, repeal the death penalty, designate corn as the “state vegetable,” create wildlife conservation license plates and require schools to prominently display the national motto, “In God We Trust.”
Speaker of the Legislature said public committee hearings on bills will begin Jan. 22.
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