- Associated Press - Friday, October 14, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Pete Ricketts declared a hiring freeze and a moratorium on most travel in the wake of a tax revenue shortfall announced Friday.

Gross tax receipts in September totaled $507 million, below earlier projections of $515 million. After doling out of tax refunds, the September net receipts came in at $437 million - $25 million below the forecast of $462 million, the Nebraska Department of Revenue said. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting and Advisory Board set the revenue forecasts in February.

“Today, I am putting in place a travel ban on non-essential, out-of-state travel and announcing a hiring freeze for all non-mission critical positions in state agencies,” Ricketts said in a news release. “Additionally, all agency directors have been working on adjustments to their budgets and identifying efficiencies in agencies to prepare for the next biennial budget.”

The state has been preparing for a tight budget in the 2017 session. Ricketts had already directed state agency leaders to look carefully at whether new hires are necessary and to limit travel and delay some purchases.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the state collected roughly $4.3 billion, which was about $95 million less than expected.

Ricketts said Friday that he is not likely to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with the shortfall.

“I have every confidence that the Legislature and I can work together in January to do what needs to be done to meet the challenge,” he said.

At least one group said tax cuts adopted in recent years contributed to the shortfall.

“The continued downturn in revenue threatens investments in schools and other vital services and makes it more difficult to address pressing issues like corrections and property taxes,” said Renee Fry, executive director of the OpenSky Policy Institute, a tax policy think tank.



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