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Pete Ricketts sworn in as 40th governor of Nebraska

Pete Ricketts sworn in as 40th governor of Nebraska

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LINCOLN (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts promised in his inaugural address Thursday to work with lawmakers while pushing for tax cuts, higher paying jobs and a stronger education system.

The Omaha Republican was sworn into office as the 40th governor of Nebraska, replacing the longest-serving governor in state history, Dave Heineman, who reached his term limit. Ricketts, 50, took the oath in a packed legislative chamber at the Capitol, one day after lawmakers kicked off the 2015 session.

In a 9-minute speech, Ricketts said the state's future depends on collaboration. He echoed many of his campaign themes, saying he would work to lower taxes while fulfilling the state's constitutional obligation to balance its budget.

“The people of Nebraska expect government to work,” Ricketts said. “They hold us to high standards. I will work hard each and every day to meet those standards and safeguard the public trust. To Nebraskans everywhere, I encourage you to stay engaged: You are the second house. Hold us accountable for what we achieve, and help us grow Nebraska.”

Ricketts said the state needs to address a labor shortage in manufacturing and other professions through job training and education. He said he would strive to ensure the state's regulatory process is “fair, transparent and more efficient,” and vowed to speak out against federal regulations that he deemed excessive.

The governor also repeated his call for property tax reductions, saying they are his top priority this year.

“Whether you're a homeowner, farmer, rancher, or small business owner, everyone feels the burden of high taxes,” Ricketts said. “Nebraskans from Alliance to Syracuse have expressed their strong interest in finding a pathway to property tax relief.”

Ricketts, an Omaha businessman who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2006, won a six-man Republican primary in May. He defeated Democrat Chuck Hassebrook, of rural Lyons, in the November general election. Ricketts has said his focus in the 2015 legislative session would be on reducing property taxes.

The inauguration marked a major changing of the guard in state government. Former State Auditor Mike Foley officially left his position on Thursday to serve as Ricketts’ lieutenant governor.

Republican Doug Peterson of Lincoln was sworn in as Nebraska's new attorney general, and former state Sen. Charlie Janssen began his first term as state auditor. Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican also swore in members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, the State Board of Education and the Public Service Commission. State Treasurer Don Stenberg and Secretary of State John Gale were sworn in for new terms.

The formal swearing-in was the first in a series of inaugural events. A gala dinner and celebration will take place at Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday night. Ricketts and his wife, Susanne Shore, are also hosting an inaugural open house at the governor's residence.

Heineman leaves office as the longest-serving governor in state history. He became governor in January 2005 when then-Gov. Mike Johanns was appointed U.S. agriculture secretary. Heineman was then elected to four-year terms in 2006 and 2010.

GRANT SCHULTE, Associated Press


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