Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
The 2010 legislative session concluded this week at the State Capitol and I want to highlight some of the progress and accomplishments achieved in the last few months.
We are in an exceptional and enviable position in comparison to other states. Nebraska's financial health and stability is stronger than most of our peers because State Senators and I have worked together and because we adhere to a basic principle that has served Nebraskans and our state so well these past few years. We don't spend money we don't have.
While much of the work on the state budget was finalized during last year's special session, the adjustments made in the 2010 session will keep our state budget in balance. The budget adjustments approved in recent weeks call for a two percent reduction during the 2010-11 fiscal year for most state agencies, with exceptions for priorities such as K-12 education, higher education and public safety programs.
The strategic decisions made by the Legislature and my administration in recent years have positioned our state to weather the financial challenges we face in an uncertain economic climate. During this session, we also took several actions to take advantage of new opportunities.
Under LB 1018, developers can qualify for refunds for new cultural projects such as museums, performing arts venues, recreation and entertainment venues, and dining establishments.
This bill expanded the Nebraska Advantage business incentives program by creating incentives aimed at the developers of projects that add to the quality of life in our communities. LB 1018 gives voters within a city or county the option of authorizing refunds for private developers from sales tax revenue. This gives local residents control over the kind of economic development opportunities they want to support in their area.
Another important measure approved was wind energy development legislation. LB 1048 was designed to help encourage the development, ownership and operation of renewable energy facilities for the export of wind energy from Nebraska. It preserves the benefits of Nebraska's unique public power system by allowing the Nebraska Power Review Board to approve wind energy operations designed to export energy to other states.
This bill marks the beginning of accelerated development of wind energy in Nebraska. We are committed to clean energy and energy independence, and this package presents opportunities for rural economic development in particular. LB 1048 combined with other wind-related bills approved in recent years will help reach our potential in this industry.
Other measures approved during this legislative session included bills that will improve government transparency, historic prolife legislation, and strengthen our juvenile justice reform efforts.
At a time when the national dialogue can be described as more contentious and divisive than cooperative, the discussions taking place in our State Capitol are overwhelmingly respectful and productive. I value the continued good working relationship that exists between our two branches of state government.
We work together for the common good of Nebraska. The result is a state that is positioned for new opportunities.