Gov. Ricketts vetoes two bills after Nebraska lawmakers go home

LINCOLN — Four days after the State Legislature ended its 2019 session, Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed two bills on Tuesday.

One, Legislative Bill 436, dealt with forming a state commission to push for a “complete count” during the 2020 census, and the other, LB 470, sought to provide a tax break for private military housing located at Offutt Air Force Base, as well as to encourage employer contributions to college savings plans.

In his veto message, Ricketts said that Complete Count Committees have already been formed voluntarily in several cities, including Grand Island, Lexington, Lincoln, Omaha and Schuyler.

While the governor said he supports a complete and accurate census count, LB 436 gives “inappropriate authority” to the State Data Center within the University of Nebraska system to create a statewide complete count committee “without any guidance, parameters, duties or goals from the state.” Ricketts also complained that planned “census parades” and “interfaith breakfasts” were not activities that the university should be involved with.

One supporter of the bill, State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, said that state lost an estimated $20 million in federal funding due to an incomplete census count in 2010, and that getting a complete count only made financial sense.

Ricketts said that while he doesn’t disagree with the intent of LB 470, it would have redefined real property as personal property in an attempt to provide a tax break for military housing developed under a federal privatization program. Such a redefinition of property has been deemed unconstitutional by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, the governor said, forcing him to veto the bill.

Another portion of the bill, which was amended into LB 470, would have provided a tax break for employers who contributed funds into college savings plans.

Both bills were presented to the governor for his signature on Friday, the final day of the 2019 legislative session. Because his vetoes came after lawmakers went home, there is no opportunity to try and override or reverse the vetoes.

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