Governor Jim Pillen Speaks at address
Gov. Jim Pillen speaks during his State of the State Address on Wednesday, Jan. 25. (Nebraska News Service Photo / Owen Reimer)

Gov. Jim Pillen outlined his proposed budget Wednesday, prioritizing an increase in education and law enforcement funding while highlighting income and property tax relief in his State of the State address. 

This focus on education funding, workforce development and anti-abortion values highlights Pillen’s top priority: Nebraska’s youth.  

Saying Nebraska has never been stronger, Pillen spent much of his half-hour-long speech discussing proposed tax cuts and said the state has more money than he can comprehend.

He proposed an additional $2.4 billion in property tax cuts, which he says amounts to $7.1 billion in savings by the 2027 fiscal year. He also recommended $1.5 billion in additional tax cuts for individuals, intending to stop outward migration of young professionals and attract more people into the state.

“We all need to reach out to K-12 and build relationships with our kids,” Pillen said. “Get them to work at a young age and give them full scholarships so they can get an education and work in your business for a minimum of five years. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the key to growing our workforce.”

Pillen’s focus on young Nebraskans also translates into a proposed investment of $1 billion toward an Education Future Fund, which would assist school districts with the needs of special education students throughout the state.

 The governor also recommended $1,500 annually toward each individual student, stating the balanced funds will provide aid to rural school districts, which he said have been underserved for too long. According to Pillen, this funding reform would provide more money for every school district in the state.

 Along with funding on the K-12 level, Pillen proposed a $50 million investment toward scholarships focused on youth who live in poverty, foster care and those with special needs.

 “We can’t let one kid fall through the cracks,” he said.

 Pillen also highlighted his priority to provide significant law enforcement investments. 

He proposed an $18.6 million funding increase for the Nebraska State Patrol, and expressed his support toward finalizing funding for a replacement of the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Pillen claims the additional funding would meet its security needs and “reduce recidivism,”  which is the likelihood a criminal is to re-offend.

Speaker John Arch of La Vista introduced Pillen’s proposed budget into legislation on Wednesday together through LB813, LB814, LB818 and LB819. 

Pillen campaigned on Nebraska being an anti-abortion state and also clarified his position during the address, stating Nebraska is a “pro-life state,” but the current discussion is “far too complicated and misleading. 

He said these views should not involve preventative contraception, in vitro fertilization or fertility medicine discussions. Instead, Pillen emphasized that the only priority is on ending abortion.

“I am fighting for the rights of every baby with a beating heart, pure and simple,” Pillen said.

He discussed his focus on providing “extensive” resources for pregnant women in need. Pillen also discussed a desire to provide an easier route for parents looking to adopt, saying he wanted to do away with spending years on paperwork and red tape.

This focus on abortion bans came after State Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston proposed a near-total ban on abortions on Jan. 17th, which would reduce abortion access from 20 weeks to around six. 

While LB626 has 28 cosigners, it has faced strong opposition from multiple other senators, including State Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, who said in an interview the bill could hurt the practice of medicine and Nebraskans. 

As the legislature entered its fourth day of hearings Wednesday, abortion, education, tax cuts and many other issues will be up for debate in the coming weeks.

 “We are making decisions that will impact our state for generations to come,” Pillen said. “And if you don’t sleep at night, I think that’s a good thing. We have a big responsibility.”