Greetings District 36. Christmas is my favorite season of the year. During this time of year our thoughts focus on family, friends, and the birth of the Christ Child. We have a great deal to be thankful for in Nebraska. We have low unemployment, a growing economy, strong schools, and cash reserves. I would like to thank the citizens of our great state who invested their time and efforts to create this atmosphere for success.
This is also the time of year that we become focused on 2017. For some of us that means focusing our attention on the upcoming session of the Nebraska Legislature. When we begin the legislative session on January 4, 2017, we will welcome 17 new Senators to the body. We will also begin the session by electing new leadership. We will elect a new speaker, and new chairpersons of the Appropriations, Revenue, Education, Health and Human Services, and Judiciary Committees. The newly elected leadership will need to hit the ground running.
My belief is that the 2017 legislative session will focus on several significant challenges. Those challenges will start with the budget shortfall. Our state’s revenues are falling below those predicted. That means we will have to go through a process of balancing our budget so that our expenditures do not exceed our revenues. This will be a difficult, but certainly not impossible, task. Good leadership will take us in the right direction.
Another challenge will be dealing with the property tax situation. Our state has become more reliant on property taxes to fund local spending, such as education. This has created a significant burden on our state's number one industry, agriculture. I remain committed to finding ways to reduce our reliance on property tax while at the same time keeping our schools strong. Long-term commitment to education remains a priority.
The Legislature will also be focused on the issues surrounding the Nebraska Department of Corrections. The continued problems of overcrowding and understaffing make it difficult to manage the facilities. The Director of Corrections recently stated, "we currently do not have a healthy and robust prison system." Our responsibility as a state is to provide for public safety. The current situation is simply not acceptable. Solutions to these issues are complex and they will cost taxpayer dollars.
We will work hard to address these and the other issues that will come up during the 2017 session. It seems clear there is a never ending lineup of “good ideas." Nearly all of these ideas cost money and strong conservative decisions need to be made to ensure that we remain in a strong financial position.
I sincerely appreciate and thank you for your continued support. Always know that your opinions are important to me and to our legislative process. Please call our office anytime with your thoughts and ideas. Most of all, I hope you enjoy a joyous and happy Christmas season.