Jul 24, 2020 4:39 PM

Ricketts touts revenue, virus response in legislative speech

Posted Jul 24, 2020 4:39 PM

By MARGERY A. BECK-Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Pete Ricketts touted Nebraska's pandemic response and rosier-than-expected revenue outlook in his address to the Legislature on Friday, while pushing for lawmakers to adopt his signature property tax relief and tax incentives packages within the remaining 13 days of the session.

"Just as Nebraskans have stepped up to the challenge as we work through this pandemic, we've got to work to get Nebraska's economy thriving," Ricketts said.

The Republican governor made a rare second address within the same session, which was suspended in March over fears of spreading the COVID-19 virus. The session resumed Monday.

The governor's address came a day after the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board predicted that while the state's tax revenue will likely dip below earlier projections because of the pandemic, the budget picture won't be as bad as previously expected.

Ricketts used that forecast to again push for lawmakers to lower property taxes and approve new tax incentives for businesses. The property tax measure would pump millions of state dollars into local school districts while putting new restrictions on how those districts can generate revenue through local property taxes. The business incentives bill would replace an existing program for businesses that's set to expire at the end of this year.

But the plan is not without its detractors, including Nebraska's public schools, which fear being shortchanged by the plan. Sen. John Stinner, chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, said this week that he plans to take a cautious approach to the rosy revenue predictions given this week.

Ricketts also urged lawmakers to push through a bill intended to attract millions in funding to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a proposal to exempt as much as half of military retirement benefits from the state income tax.