Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday he will focus on further reductions in state spending in the wake of last week's forecast of a growing gap in anticipated state revenue.

But he's "willing to discuss different ideas" that might be proposed by state senators, he said.

"We'll work with the Legislature," the governor said during a news conference at the Capitol called to discuss efficiencies in state government that have resulted from his administration's imposition of "operational excellence initiatives."

Ricketts already has imposed a hiring freeze and placed restrictions on travel expenses in the wake of the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board's reduction in anticipated revenue available to fund the state's 2017-2019 budget.

The latest forecast left a projected $195 million revenue hole in the state budget that was approved by the Legislature earlier this year, pointing the way to likely reductions in budget allocations to state agencies and institutions.

"The Legislature and I will work to control spending," Ricketts said, and "align the budget with the forecast."

Asked if congressional efforts to enact federal tax cuts might negatively impact Nebraska's revenue picture even further, the governor said those tax cuts conceivably could improve the economy and "we could see revenue grow."

The state government operational efficicencies hailed by Ricketts stemmed from his determination to "change the culture of state government (and) operate it more like a business."

Some of the results have included swifter and more efficient telephone response, improved online service, improved processing time for licensing, and cost savings.

"We need to treat people like customers," the governor said, and "do a better job serving the people of Nebraska" while controlling government costs.

Representatives from the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Administrative Services outlined changes that have improved service and response time and, in some cases, already saved money.

Ricketts created a Center of Operational Excellence to work with state agencies to train state government's workforce to help improve governmental operations, identify waste and "deliver better customer service."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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