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This year, as another Veterans Day approaches, we take time out of our busy schedules to pause and recognize the sacrifices made by those who answered the call of duty to serve our country. Serving and sacrificing to protect our freedoms is the utmost act of patriotism and deserves to be recognized every day of the year, not just on November 11. To the veterans reading this week’s column- thank you for your service. Your dedication to our country will never be forgotten.
Of course, a mere “thank you” from a policymaker is not enough. Words are appreciated, but actions are far more meaningful. Nebraska is one of the few states in the country that fully tax military retirement pay. This is unacceptable. Each year, we lose hundreds of our bravest men and women to neighboring states with far more favorable tax policies. Senator Tom Brewer, himself a decorated veteran, has brought a bill to exempt 50% of military retirement pay from income taxes. This bill, LB 153, is a solid step in the right direction of making Nebraska more veteran-friendly. It’s been a privilege to work with Senator Brewer on this bill, which will be up on the floor for debate early in the next session.
Our income tax discourages military retirees from settling in Nebraska. We are surrounded by states that offer more income tax relief to military retirees, and it shows in our declining numbers of veterans moving out of Nebraska upon retirement. According to the Platte Institute, 3,500 Nebraskans moved to Iowa in 2014. This was the year Iowa fully exempted Social Security and military retirement pay from the Iowa income tax rolls.
District 1 is home to thousands of veterans. In Johnson County there are 328 veterans, 540 in Nemaha, 1,219 in Otoe, 213 in Pawnee, and 700 in Richardson. When you include spouses and families of veterans in that figure, you’ll find that the majority of people in District 1 have close ties to servicemembers. I take pride in knowing that we have a strong population of veterans in southeast Nebraska. LB 153 is a small step in the right direction for repaying those who served our country, and I look forward to supporting and introducing more veteran-friendly legislation in sessions to come.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: email@example.com.