As we close out 2018 and enter 2019, many of us are turning our minds to the future. Some are setting new financial or fitness goals. For others, they may be resolving to spend more time with family or to read new books. As we enter the new year, I have put together a list of goals for our state in 2019. I am sharing a few of them here.

Great opportunities – Jobs create opportunities for individuals and families, giving them dignity, economic freedom and financial independence. For the third year in a row, Nebraska achieved one million non-farm jobs in 2018. This year, we ranked #3 for wage growth, #4 for workforce participation rate and #6 for low unemployment. My team has put a big focus on connecting Nebraskans to great opportunities through initiatives like our reemployment program at the Department of Labor and the Developing Youth Talent Initiative through the Department of Economic Development.

In 2019, we will expand our efforts to develop our people and connect even more Nebraskans to great jobs. We will continue to build upon the foundation of our current programs to ensure that our people have the skills they need to take the great jobs in our state.

Innovative customer service successes – In 2018, our team made progress on our mission to make government more effective, more efficient and more customer focused. We brought faster service to the Omaha Metro South DMV in Sarpy County with a new, enhanced location in Bellevue. We eliminated bureaucratic processes in the Division of Developmental Disabilities, so our service coordinators can spend more time serving the needs of Nebraskans. A review of how inmates in our prisons receive medical care cut down on the number of inmates being transported out of state prisons, helping protect public safety.

In 2019, the Center of Operational Excellence and our process improvement coordinators will continue to equip our team with new skills to eliminate waste and find innovative ways to speed up the work of state government.

Property tax relief – As the Legislature gathers again for a new session, there will be another opportunity to deliver new property tax relief for Nebraskans. As we think about how to address high property taxes in the upcoming legislative session, it is important to focus on the fundamentals. There are three key things that matter when it comes to cutting property taxes: We have to control spending. We have to reform how property is valued for tax purposes. And we cannot tax one group of people to pay for someone else’s tax relief.

Right now, I am preparing a budget that controls spending along with additional property tax relief. I will be unveiling my budget during my State of the State address on January 15, and I look forward to working with senators to deliver more tax relief for you.

Year-round E15 – In October, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and I joined President Trump in Council Bluffs for a special announcement. At the event, President Trump announced his approval of the year-round sale of E15. This is a big deal for Iowa and Nebraska, the top two ethanol-producing states in the nation. Right now, E15 can only be marketed September 16 through April 30, meaning that we are missing out on peak driving months during the summer. A final rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will allow E15 to be sold all year long, and we will be encouraging the EPA to finalize this rule in time for the summer driving season.

The EPA also recently approved the State of Nebraska for a pilot program to test E30. In the pilot program, we will study the use of Nebraska-grown and produced E30 in conventional vehicles owned by the state. This additional research around mileage and maintenance will help show that E30 will help consumers save money at the pump, help clean up the environment, and is great for our farmers and ranchers.

These are just a few of our goals for 2019. In the coming weeks, I will be sharing some of the initiatives I have been working on as we kick off the 106th session of the Nebraska Legislature. Until then, I hope you and your family have a safe and joyous conclusion to the holiday season.

If you have thoughts you would like to share about the upcoming year, I hope you will take the time to write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or you can call 402-471-2244. Have a blessed and prosperous New Year!