Gov. Ricketts Discusses Child Welfare and Tax Relief During Town Hall

Gov. Ricketts Discusses Child Welfare and Tax Relief During Town Hall
Governor Pete Ricketts at the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce during a Town Hall meeting on January 16

BROKEN BOW–Governor Pete Ricketts has been making his way across Nebraska following his State of the State Address last week.

In a January 16 story KCNI/KBBN summarized the governor’s top four priorities for Nebraska in 2020 which included property tax relief, flood relief, veterans’ tax relief, and workforce and business expansion.

Following his presentation, Governor Ricketts took questions from the audience which ranged from child welfare, more on property taxes, state aid to school districts, nursing homes, gun laws, and health care.

The governor said the state still has a long way to go regarding foster care programs but said the Bring Up Nebraska initiative is pulling together resources and services to help families.

“By doing that, being more preventative we’ve actually been able to reduce the number of kids that are going into foster care by 18% over the last two years. That means that those families are staying together. Those kids are staying in their home and that’s what we want,” the governor continued. “If at all possible we want to keep those kids with their homes. Because even when you have to pull a kid out of a home to protect a child, the child still feels punished. So if we can be preventative and get to those parents and make sure that they’ve got the resources they need so they don’t get that kid pulled out of the home, it’s better for everyone.”

Jerry Adams asked Governor Ricketts what the biggest challenges are to getting property tax relief achieved and the governor said the biggest obstacle is to come up with a plan that delivers relief and does not penalize school districts. The governor added that another challenge is getting the necessary 33 votes.

“It’s not going to be easy but I’m optimistic because for the first time in a while we’ve actually agreed on a framework and that gives us the opportunity to make those changes and adjustments,” Governor Ricketts said.

Former Senator Jim Jones expressed concerns for the low number of young people in agriculture saying that as a state “we’ve got the door shut for young people in agriculture.”

Governor Ricketts responded by saying that property tax continues to be the state’s number one priority and hopes that will make it easier for young people to get into agriculture. He also said he wants to continue adding to the property tax relief fund in years to come.

Regarding property taxes and state aid to schools, the governor said Broken Bow Public Schools previously received $2 million in state aid but that has dropped to $90,000 in the last few years due to higher ag land valuations–which have gone up by 260% over the last 10 years. Therefore, the TEEOSA formula caused a loss of equalization aid due to the assumption of more resources available based on land valuations. Governor Ricketts said another form of aid will be based on the number of students.

“We’re adding on another foundation aid aspect that will be per student so it won’t be dependent on your resources from a land valuation standpoint, it will be on a per student basis so every school district will benefit because every school district has students,” Governor Ricketts said.

During last week’s town hall meeting the governor added that “property tax relief is a multi-faceted issue” and that he wants to change the way we value ag land as well as change the way the state reimburses skilled nursing facilities in response to a question from the audience.

Bills will be introduced to the legislature until January 23.