Governor Ricketts talks legislature; budget

Posted by: Abigail Wood

Nebraska needs to find about $900 million in next year’s budget, and Governor Pete Ricketts is defending the plan he presented to the legislature.

"At the end of the day we just don’t have the money," he said. "One of the things I hear universally as I travel the state is that Nebraskans tell me they’re taxed too much. So we’re not going to raise taxes. That’s a priority, and that means we have to make tough decisions about how to live in our budget just like every Nebraskan family has to do."

What are those tough decisions? Ricketts says he won’t cut the Department of Corrections or K-12 education, but since he’s also not raising taxes to balance the budget, that money has to come from somewhere. Some programs, like the $1.8 million storm water management grants, were cut completely. Others, like the Department of Health and Human Services, suffered partial funding cuts in Ricketts’ proposal.

Ricketts came under fire for the DHHS cuts, but he says the threat of layoffs is limited because of a hiring freeze back in October.

"So we’ve been managing our workforce by just not hiring people unless it’s mission critical," he said. "So to say that there’s actually going to be people losing their jobs is misleading because it’s been managed through what we’ve been doing since going back to last October."

Ricketts says his goal is to slow agency growth until the budget can catch up, which he hopes will happen by the coming biennium.