Ricketts Reign Of Error — The Second Term Will Be Just As Bad
Unfortunately, Pete Ricketts was re-elected by a 59% to 41% margin on November 6. In a normal, well functioning two party state, Ricketts’ re-election bid would have been in real jeopardy since he faced distinguished Air Force veteran and State Senator Bob Krist. Because Nebraska is a dysfunctional one party state dominated by the GOP, Ricketts was able to win a second term.
The billionaire governor’s second term is already off to a rough start despite the fact he hasn’t even been inaugurated again. Due to years of neglect by Heineman and Ricketts, the Nebraska prison system has been plagued by riots caused by short staffing and over crowding. There have been two prison riots thus far in which at least four people have been killed. Moreover, inmate assaults upon correctional officers occur on a regular basis.
As a result of Ricketts’ mismanagement of the prison system and the riot at the Tecumseh facility in 2015, an inmate sued the state for injuries he sustained during that riot. During the course of that trial, the state for the first time ever, revealed a 2015 study of the Tecumseh prison riot. This study indicated that the Tecumseh facility was a powder keg and was “primed” for a riot due to the incompetence of the Ricketts Administration.
The cover up of this explosive 2015 report is disturbing on at least two levels. First of all, vital information was withheld from the voters before the 2018 election cycle. Obviously, the release of this report would’ve hurt Ricketts’ re-election bid.
The second disturbing aspect of the cover up is that in civil litigation, attorneys are required by law to disclose relevant reports well in advance of a trial. The late disclosure of this prison report during the trial itself was illegal and unethical. It caused the judge to declare a mistrial and the case will now get an unnecessary do over at the expense of the taxpayers.
Things don’t look any more promising on the legislative front. Over approximately the last decade, Nebraska’s farmers and middle class homeowners have been suffering from an overly burdensome property tax system. While property taxes have soared, the all GOP government in Lincoln has done nothing due to the incompetence of the last two governors and divisions among the Republicans in the Unicameral.
In the upcoming session, no solution to the property tax crisis is likely to pass and we are probably looking forward to more gridlock and dysfunction. A major source of that gridlock is Ricketts’ adamant refusal to compromise on the tax issue. Due to his blind adherence to the right wing’s no new taxes orthodoxy, Ricketts will not sign off any legislation that would enhance other revenue sources to fund property tax relief.
Nebraska’s tax code is honeycombed with special interest sales tax exemptions. State senators from both parties are willing to fund property tax relief by cutting back on some of those exemptions. Moreover, new revenues from online sales is another source of funds that could relieve the onerous burden on our farmers and middle class homeowners.
Unfortunately, Ricketts and his right wing allies in the Unicameral will only fund property tax relief with further cuts in spending for education, UNL, health care and infrastructure. These programs have already been cut to the bone during the Ricketts’ Administration due to his refusal to work across party lines and his fealty to the no new taxes theology of the radical right.
Despite his failures in Nebraska, Ricketts may have aspirations for higher public office. The Omaha billionaire was recently elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Past governors have used this post as a springboard to higher office — even president. There have been other signs that Ricketts has national aspirations. In the recent past, he has been a speaker at the NRA Convention and the right wing CPAC conference.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Ricketts ran for the Senate in 2020. Sasse has alienated a lot of Republicans with his occasional mild criticism of Trump and may not even run for re-election. Moreover, Ricketts may even consider running for president in 2024. He and his family are probably of the belief they can parlay their vast wealth into buying the White House for Pete.
All we can do for now is contact our state senators and ask them to stand up to Ricketts’ ongoing reign of error. According to legislative insiders, there are approximately 27 senators who will oppose Ricketts and put the people of Nebraska first. We will probably have to wait for another governor to expect to get something done. That is the reality. I wish I had better news for you.