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Six takeaways from Gov. Ricketts’ State of the State speech

January 17, 2019

Six takeaways from Gov. Pete Ricketts’ State of the State address Tuesday. The governor wants to:

— Bolster property tax relief by increasing the property tax credit program by $51 million per year, to $275 million in credits. The owner of a $100,000 home would get $20 more from the tax credit, for a total of $106 per year.

— Limit the growth of property tax revenues by enshrining in the state constitution, with voter approval, a 3 percent limit on increases in property tax dollars collected by schools and other local governments. The proposal would require approval of the Legislature as well as the state’s voters. Local voters could decide to override the lid.

— Address prison overcrowding by building two high-security units at the Lincoln Correctional Center. The 384-bed addition would cost $49 million and allow the state to meet a July 2020 deadline to reduce overcrowding to under 140 percent of capacity. Nebraska has the second-most-overcrowded prisons in the country and is facing a federal civil rights lawsuit because of it.

— No tax increase. Duh. It’s hard to recall when a Nebraska governor proposed a tax increase in this speech, and Ricketts has consistently said he wouldn’t support one. The state expects to get $30 million $40 million a year from a “new” tax source — online purchases. As of Jan. 1, larger retailers must collect sales taxes from their Nebraska customers.

— Limited growth in state spending. The two-year budget has average spending growth of 3.1 percent. Two-thirds of the growth comes from increases in state aid to K-12 schools and Medicaid expansion.

— Steer young people to high-demand local jobs, via ”talent scholarships” at state universities and community colleges in fields such as engineering, health care and computer science. The governor also proposes to expand a “developing youth talent” program that exposes kids in middle school to IT and manufacturing careers.

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