Ricketts: Virus will force belt-tightening in state budget

His comments came after lawmakers announced plans to resume their regular session on July 20.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts warned Monday that the coronavirus pandemic will likely lead to state budget cuts and force lawmakers to water down two of his biggest priorities — a property tax bill for farmers and homeowners, and a new business incentive package.

His comments came after lawmakers announced plans to resume their regular session on July 20.

It’s not clear whether the property tax or business incentive measures had enough support to pass even before the pandemic. But the economic damage caused by business closures and social distancing has already led to a sharp downturn in state revenue, making it much harder to approve either proposal.

“We are going to need to tighten our belts,” Ricketts said at his weekday coronavirus news conference. “At this point we just don’t know what all that is going to entail.”

Ricketts said he still hopes lawmakers can address those priorities, but he acknowledged that people will need to “adjust expectations” for what can be done this year.

The property tax plan floated by key lawmakers seeks to lower property taxes by boosting state aid for K-12 schools but impose new restrictions on their taxing power, which school groups oppose. The business tax incentive package would replace the state’s largest tax credit program for businesses, which is set to expire this year.

Nebraska has seen a few hopeful signs over the last few days, as the number of new, confirmed COVID-19 cases appeared to be trending downward. The state reported 576 new confirmed cases over the weekend, which was down from 743 the previous weekend. No news deaths were reported Sunday.

Even so, Ricketts said he wanted more caseload data before he decides whether to further ease social-distancing restrictions in June.

Categories: Nebraska News