Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Although Gov. Pete Ricketts is not ready to discuss details about his approaching state budget recommendations, it appeared more clear on Wednesday that the governor is focused on reducing state government while slicing taxes.

"We will cut the government," Ricketts said during an hourlong morning session over coffee and cinnamon rolls at the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce that attracted about 100 people.

Two years ago, the governor's first biennial budget recommendation would have sliced the growth of state tax-supported spending from 6.5 percent to 3 percent. Ricketts ultimately accepted a 3.6 percent growth figure.

A reduced rate of budget growth is not the language of today as the state faces declining revenue forecasts.

"There's no money," Ricketts said. "We have to make tough choices (and) tighten our belts."

And, the governor said, "we're going to tackle the income tax and the property tax," both of which have placed Nebraska in the category of "a high-tax state."

"We're not competitive when it comes to (state) income taxes," Ricketts said, and the size of local property taxes is the No. 1 concern he hears from residents at town hall meetings throughout the state.

High property taxes are the result of local school spending, he said, and that's where that issue needs to be addressed.

Asked by a member of the audience whether he might look to current state sales tax exemptions for additional revenue, particularly the possibility of applying the sales tax to purchases of soda pop, the governor said: "I'm not interested in raising taxes."

The approaching 2017 legislative session will be "dominated by the budget," Ricketts said, and he'll offer his proposal in his State of the State address next month.

Ricketts said he remains focused on growing the state and its economy and he believes the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump may be helpful in wiping out a series of federal regulations and "free up our economy."

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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

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