LINCOLN – Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference Wednesday morning to emphasize the State’s strong financial position and call for action to build a new State Penitentiary and protect Nebraska’s water resources.
The Governor noted that continued growth in Nebraska—especially in the State’s two biggest industries of agriculture and manufacturing—has contributed to much stronger-than-expected State revenues. Earlier this week, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board raised its forecast of State revenues by $775 million through the end of Fiscal Year 2023. Gov. Ricketts urged the Legislature to deliver tax relief to Nebraskans with these surplus revenues. He also encouraged Senators to fully fund a replacement for the aging Nebraska State Penitentiary. Additionally, he called on the Unicameral to move forward on the Perkins County Canal to protect Nebraska’s water entitlements along the South Platte River.
Senator Lou Ann Linehan, Chair of the Nebraska Legislature’s Revenue Committee, joined the Governor at this morning’s press conference. She pointed to Nebraska’s high income tax rates relative to surrounding states, some of which have no income taxes at all. To keep Nebraska competitive regionally, she urged her colleagues in the Unicameral to support bills to cut income taxes, protect property tax relief, and accelerate the phaseout of taxes on Social Security income.
Scott Frakes, Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, reiterated the need to replace the Nebraska State Penitentiary. He said the existing State Penitentiary has passed its lifespan, and he mentioned the inadequacies of the building structure, utilities, and accessibility of the current State Penitentiary campus. Director Frakes discussed his agency’s initial design work on a new, modern penitentiary. He encouraged Senators to seize the opportunity to fund construction of a new facility to provide more room for programming and better living spaces for inmates.
Tom Riley, Director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, also spoke at today’s press conference. He talked about the urgent need to build the Perkins County Canal to secure the State’s South Platte River water entitlements under Nebraska’s existing compact with Colorado. Director Riley explained that major developments in Colorado threaten to drastically reduce water flows into Nebraska. Without taking action on the canal, Director Riley warned that future generations in Nebraska will have much less water available for community drinking water supplies, for irrigation, and to nourish the natural environment.