This is the first of a two-part series.
Governor Pete Ricketts says he wants a second term to complete the work which he began nearly four years ago.
Ricketts, a Republican, is running for re-election.
“We have accomplished a lot in the last three-and-a-half, plus years. We’ve got a great team who have made improvements in all of our agencies. But we’ve still got more work to do.”
Ricketts says his administration has changed the culture of state government into one of continuous improvement. He points to the Department of Health and Human Services, which has adopted a business plan to improve the time calls are answered by ACCESS Nebraska as well as place more children in foster or adoptive homes to reduce the number of children who are wards of the state.
As far as the top issue for this gubernatorial campaign, it remains property tax relief, according to Ricketts.
Ricketts has been unable to push his plan to mix property and income tax relief through the legislature, falling to filibusters. Ricketts says he believes he has the right idea but must work to convince enough lawmakers to meet the threshold of 33 out of 49 votes to break a filibuster.
An idea floated during the last legislative session is flatly rejected by Ricketts: increasing the state sales tax to reduce the property tax burden.
“It doesn’t actually reduce taxes. We have to actually reduce taxes. You can’t raise taxes to lower taxes. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Ricketts still favors a combination package which would ease the property tax burden while also lowering income taxes. Ricketts argues high corporate and personal income taxes have made Nebraska less competitive with its neighboring states.
Crowded prisons remains a priority. State prisons stand at 155% of designed capacity.
The governor holds out hope a legislative package approved in the past designed to reduce the prison population will make enough progress to keep from triggering a state emergency which could get the courts involved in reducing prison populations.
Ricketts says he wants $117 million to increase space for beds, but also more inmate programs.
“Ninety-three percent of our inmates are going to leave our system; make sure they’re prepared to leave. Make sure they’ve got the programming or the education or the job training, so when they leave they can get that job, integrate back into society, not reoffend, and not add to our (prison) population in the future.”