Friday was Day 56 (of 60). It was 3:30 pm when Speaker, Jim Scheer, stepped to his microphone. The fourth tax relief bill offered this year had just been blocked by yet another filibuster. The fifth, and final, tax relief bill seems destined for the same fate on Monday. As Mr. Speaker began to talk, senators quickly realized he was miles from pleased. He had their attention.
Since opening day of this legislative session (Jan. 3), tax relief, or cuts, or reform or whatever you want to call it, have been THE most significant issue. Taxpayers are stressed-out! Particularly, property taxpayers. And, there is reason to believe the Legislature and the Governor are motivated to develop and pass a plan that leads to lower taxes. The motivation….a petition drive, currently underway, that would force the lowering of property taxes and blow-up the taxation model we have all come to know and love. Residents are signing the petition right now, and it could very likely be on the November General Election ballot. Now you can do your best Don Knots impression.
Back to the Speaker. He expressed his “displeasure” in the body’s inability to compromise. He then called out the five senators who introduced tax plans because they had been killing each others bills. Finally, he “invited” those senators to his office to work on a compromise, – without staff or lobbyists. Sacrilegious as that sounds, they met Friday night for three hours and again Sunday. Monday is absolutely the last day to begin moving a bill through the process, and the agenda does not yet include a tax reform bill.
On an equally significant note, the body advanced LB449 (Senator Chambers) that would repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. First, which of you city folk thought there are only white-tailed prairie dogs in Nebraska? And second, did you know prairie dogs have a management team? These critters are prolific and their colonies are detrimental to livestock. Step in a prairie dog hole and you too can break a leg. Protecting prairie dogs is personal for Senator Chambers. Perhaps he has a colony or two in his district. The Act was passed during his four year term limit hiatus.
The session continues April 9, 10 and 11 and will adjourn sine die April 18.
Tracking Sheet Priority Bills
LB44 (Watermeier) DEAD ON FINAL READING – Would increase state sales tax revenue through collection of taxes on Internet purchases. The Governor will not sign this bill if it passes Final Reading.
LB829 (Erdman) DEAD IN COMMITTEE – Would enable Nebraska property owners to get a credit or refund on their state income tax return equal to 50% of that portion of their property tax bill, which goes to fund K-12 education.
LB947 (Smith for the Governor) GENERAL FILE – ONE OF THE BILLS IN PLAY FOR TAX REFORM – Senator Groene was the fifth vote in the Revenue Committee to advance the bill. Not sure what he got in return, but his LB640 is back in play. As amended, property tax payers would receive a refundable credit against income taxes paid, beginning 2018. A refundable credit on income taxes paid for homesteads begins at 1% and caps at 20% over ten years. Agricultural and horticultural credit on income taxes paid begins at 2% and caps at 20% over 10 years.
LB994 (Friesen) SELECT FILE – ON THE AGENDA MONDAY – Creates a committee to study broadband telecommunications service to unserved and underserved areas in rural Nebraska. The intent states that citizens in rural Nebraska should have comparable broadband service to citizens in urban areas.
LB1103 (Friesen) GENERAL FILE – ONE OF THE BILLS IN PLAY FOR TAX REFORM – Creates foundation aid that is the greater of 25% of the basic funding calculated for a school district or the total amount certified for a local system, proportionally based on the formula students attributed to each district. Senator Friesen is having difficulty getting five votes in committee to advance the bill.