Thank you for your continued involvement in the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry and in your local communities. The commitment of so many individuals in communities all across the state is what makes Nebraska the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family.
My administration’s vision is to grow Nebraska. Part of growing Nebraska involves running our state government more like a business. We’re constantly working to improve operations, increase efficiency and constantly focus on the customer, just like businesses do. By changing how government operates, we’re opening more opportunities for every Nebraskan.
One area of focus has been to expand opportunities for Nebraska products and services. We have put a renewed emphasis on domestic and foreign trade missions, which has resulted in millions of dollars in new investments and agreements for purchase of Nebraska commodities. Meeting personally with investors and trading partners provides an opportunity to bolster new partnerships abroad and create job opportunities here at home.
We’re also expanding opportunities for individuals. We developed the first-in-the-nation Reemployment Program at the Department of Labor to connect job seekers with good-paying jobs. Individuals receiving unemployment benefits must now participate in the program, which includes job coaching and creating a resume that is searchable by employers. In 2016, Nebraska paid out $13.75 million less in unemployment benefits than in 2015 as people got back to work faster. In the Department of Health and Human Services, we have been successful at reducing dependency on SNAP benefits with a new program that is helping our food stamp families find better job opportunities. The program was originally piloted in Grand Island and it has been expanded to Hastings and Columbus due to its initial success.
To increase efficiency, my chief information officer has centralized IT services for 90 counties and Nebraska state agencies. Their work has resulted in faster response times and has reduced county network costs by 20 percent. The Center of Operational Excellence has been hard at work, training all state employees in the basics of Lean Six Sigma and encouraging them to find and eliminate waste in their agencies. We continue to make improvements at the Department of Environmental Quality, including putting permit applications online, dramatically reducing the time to issue a permit from weeks or months to days.
These changes are creating an environment in which business can flourish. Nebraska is the best state in the Union regarding our regulatory environment and the third best state for business, according to Forbes. Even though we’re already very good, we can always do better. This push for continual improvement is why I ordered a review of all red tape and regulations in Nebraska. Our state agencies are auditing themselves and finding all the rules that are unnecessary for the growth of Nebraska.
Red tape and regulations aren’t the only things that hinder business, however. Taxes also stunt our growth. My administration is constantly looking for ways to ease the tax burden on Nebraskans. I’m happy to announce that we’ve been able to provide $848 million in tax relief for Nebraska property owners through the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund since 2015. These tax cuts have helped us reach over 1 million non-farm jobs in Nebraska, a record level. Finding more ways to cut taxes will continue to fuel our economic engine.
This budget cycle, revenues continue to fall short of growth projections. This is in large part due to decreased farm income. My administration has worked with state agencies to exercise additional spending restraint to weather this storm. Restraint is critical so that we can hold the line on taxes and pass the tax reform we need to keep the Good Life growing in the future.
Nebraska’s business leaders and attractive business climate contribute to our state’s outstanding quality of life. I look forward to working with each of you to keep our focus on policies that will grow Nebraska now and into the future.
Thank you for your continued investment in our great state.