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Julie Slama

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1

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Did you get your new property tax valuations in the last week or so? Me too.

Let’s talk about it in this week’s column.

There are two parts of your property tax bill: your property’s valuation and the levee at which your local taxing entities can set their tax rate.

Your valuation is based on the market value of your home. The state requires residential property to be valued by the assessor at 92-100% of market value. Some argue that people purchasing homes or farmland above market value are artificially inflating the market, causing us all to pay higher taxes. There’s something to that, sure, but it’s far from the whole story.

Valuations aren’t the key part of this puzzle. As a conservative Republican, I generally demand the government stay out of the free market, especially when it comes to private property. If you are of the belief that property valuations are more of a reflection of the free market, then there’s one other place to turn to explain high property taxes: levees.

Nebraska prides itself on local control, especially when it comes to funding things like schools, cities, NRDs, etc. The state does not collect any property tax. Your property tax rates are set by local elected officials (like school board members, NRD reps, and city council members) under the belief that you can have more day-to-day contact with your local elected official to demand more transparency when it comes to where your tax dollars are being spent. Yes, it’s an imperfect system riddled with state and federal unfunded mandates, but overall- it makes sense. Your neighbor, or you, for that matter, should probably know the needs of your community better than some guy pushing papers in Lincoln or D.C.

However, the system only works if elected officials are held accountable. For far too long, too many people have divorced their high taxes from where their dollars are going and the elected officials who decide those rates. Local control only benefits the community and the taxpayers if the local elected officials are responsive to the concerns of taxpayers.

Pointing vaguely in the direction of Lincoln and shouting, “It’s the state’s fault!’ does not cut it when your local elected officials are the ones making the call on your tax rates. It rings especially hollow when you consider the billions in federal and state tax dollars poured into covering extra COVID costs for local entities and, on the state side, to fund local entities so they cut property taxes.

If your property valuation went up this year and your local taxing entities did not proportionately drop their levee to cover the increase, they raised your property taxes. It’s okay to reach out to your local elected officials and ask, “Why?” It’s their job to work for you! Perhaps they have a good reason. Maybe they don’t. That’s up to you, as a voter, to decide.

The system of local control only works when there is accountability.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Primary Colors
June 7th, 2024

Last week’s primary elections came and went, with the top vote-getters advancing to the November elections. Thank you to our poll workers and election officials who serve and protect our free and fair elections. Thank you, as well, to those whose road to the November elections ended on Tuesday night. Putting your name in the public square to stand for election takes courage and commitment to service, regardless of the outcome.

Turnout was not as high as projected by the Secretary of State’s office- perhaps thanks to the lack of many competitive primaries outside of more local races. Since both Dennis Schaardt and Bob Hallstrom advanced to the November elections to represent Southeast Nebraska in our Legislature, I’ve been asked several times if I’ll be making an endorsement in the race. I won’t be endorsing either Bob or Dennis for several reasons- most importantly because I think they’d both do a solid job of representing District 1 in Lincoln.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my campaign in 2020 came from a higher-ranking elected official who graciously refused to endorse either candidate in my race because the official had positive relationships with each candidate. It’s always a bit of a disappointment to be turned down, but the message attached to the rejection stuck with me.

“While I appreciate you and your opponent reaching out for my support, I find myself in the awkward position of hoping both of you somehow emerge with a win in November. I know whichever one of you works the hardest, consistently provides a listening ear to constituents, and best outlines your vision for your region will walk away victorious. My endorsement (or lack thereof) probably won’t tip the scales much and shouldn’t stand in the real work of earning the votes of your constituents.”

I embraced that message wholeheartedly by knocking 15,000 doors and hosting events in every town across our district, even outside of election years. I hope to have a positive relationship with whoever finds themselves getting sworn in at the Legislature next January. Looking at the splits from primary night, it seems like it will be a competitive race. Both candidates have a lifetime of experience and service in Southeast Nebraska. Both know how our state government works. Both also have clearly defined visions for their representation of District 1.

Dennis and Bob are both strong candidates to represent our district- in my mind, at least. My prayer is that whoever emerges victorious in November- in any election on your ballot- works to earn your vote and serve their future constituents selflessly and tirelessly.

Serving as your state senator for six years has been the privilege of a lifetime. You’ll be in good hands with either Bob or Dennis as your next representative in Lincoln.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Death and Taxes
April 22nd, 2024

Father Time caught up with our 108th Legislature in dramatic fashion on April 18, with LB 1402 (a bill to empower parents to choose the school of their choice for their child, regardless of income) passing with 33 votes and Governor Pillen’s tax shift bill, LB 388, running out of steam before the finish line.

LB 388, promised by some as a “magic bullet” for fixing our tax system, faced strong opposition from fiscal conservatives immediately. Among other complaints, LB 388 would have only cut property taxes for those failing to note that they are property owners on their tax returns, definitions of new taxes on “pop and candy” would have forced Mom & Pop grocery stores to hire compliance officers, and the bill’s numbers were kept afloat by an unconstitutional tax on digital advertising. The only other state to pass this digital ad tax, Maryland, is buried under dozens of lawsuits and has been forced to pay back the taxes collected with interest.

There’s a big difference between passing a bill you claim to provide tax relief and actually cutting taxes. LB 388 was never properly calibrated to provide structural property tax relief. It was the equivalent of treating someone with a bullet wound to their leg with a Band-Aid on their pinkie.

Never mind the biggest problem of all: Nebraska’s high taxes come from a spending addiction not addressed in LB 388. Nebraska has the 6th highest taxes per capita in the country. LB 388 would have been a net tax increase with flimsy (if any) new spending controls. After watching his plan fail, Governor Pillen challenged the Legislature to come back in a special session with new proposals.

I’m game for it. Here’s my plan:
1. Cut spending.
2. Broaden the sales tax base to eliminate exemptions unfairly picking winners and losers AND cut the overall sales tax rate. Any revenue left over should go directly towards property tax cuts.
3. Remove obsolete unfunded mandates which add costs to our local government. Governor Pillen estimates over 20% of local government costs could be cut by simply trimming the fat of unfunded mandates. Let’s start there.
4. If the state government is going to provide local taxing entities with money intended to cut taxes, those funds should be used to cut taxes dollar-for-dollar with no exceptions.
5. Provide more foundation aid to our rural schools, but again under the directive that it’s used for dollar-for-dollar tax cuts.
6. Cut spending.

I’m ready to present real property tax relief solutions in a special session. Nebraskans are some of the most over-taxed people in the country, while the state government adds insult to injury with out-of-control spending and hollow proposals like LB 388.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

As we enter the final days of the short session, it only seems fitting that our legislative days extend into the twilight of each day, as well. However, this past week was a productive one, packed with late-night debates, filibusters, and continuous wins for Southeast Nebraska. This week, I would like to highlight some of the bills that were passed by the legislature last Thursday.

The legislature unanimously passed LB 910, which was introduced by Senator Riepe. This bill was brought forward by Nebraska City Police Sgt. Chris Richardson (and his K9 partner Mack), which allows licensed EMS personnel to transport and provide critical medical care for law enforcement canines injured in the line of duty. This legislation underscores our dedication to providing assistance to every aspect of our law enforcement community, with the aim of improving safety and care in Nebraska.

Senator DeKay’s LB 1301 was also passed by our legislature and pertains to the Foreign-owned Real Estate National Security Act. This legislation amends our statutes to impose stricter limitations on foreign ownership of agricultural land. Given the current extent of foreign-own land in Nebraska, which surpasses 691,000 acres, this legislation represents an important stride in safeguarding our agricultural resources against any potential threats by foreign adversaries.

The legislature also passed LB 1030, introduced by Senator Bostelman, which creates the County Bridge Match Working Group. This group will be tasked with overseeing the distribution of grants for county bridge projects, supported by funding transfers from the Road Operations Cash Fund. This bill is especially important for rural areas in Southeast Nebraska, where strong infrastructure supports our local economy and agriculture. This is a step forward in improving the safety and dependability of travel throughout our state.

Senator Hardin’s LB 1120 was passed by the legislature. This bill seeks to prohibit the purchase of land within a 10-mile radius of military installations by individuals or entities affiliated with foreign adversaries. This measure is significant to Nebraska as the preservation of land around our military bases is crucial not only for national security but also for maintaining the economic stability of the surrounding communities. This bill demonstrates our dedication to protecting Nebraska’s military installations and agricultural lands from foreign threats.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

The Spotlight on Nebraska
April 5th, 2024

In the past week, the Nebraska Legislature hotly contested the way Nebraska counts its electoral votes. Unlike most states which adopt a winner-take-all approach- where the candidate securing the popular vote in the state is awarded all of the state’s electoral votes. However, Nebraska is different from the others whereas electoral votes are allocated based on the outcomes within each congressional district, therefore allowing for a split in electoral votes. Let me be clear, the winner-take-all system is a concept that I brought to light in 2021. I support a winner-take-all system.

I brought winner-take-all as an amendment to the last Government Committee bill on General File (LB 1300). Given the recent interest in this issue, it was incumbent that the Nebraska Legislature finally took a full vote. This put everyone on the record. It is clear that Republicans can talk a big talk but can’t walk the walk when it comes to actually getting things done. This proposal was not just about changing the rules; it was about ensuring that Nebraska’s voice in presidential elections is heard loud and clear. Former President Donald Trump even chimed in, urging Nebraska to “do the right thing.” But as we know, doing the right thing is not always as straightforward as it seems.

Nebraska and Maine are the only states that allow their electoral votes to be split. My advocacy for a winter-take-all system stems from a belief in streamlining the electoral process and ensuring that Nebraska’s “blue dot” (Omaha) does not dictate and tilt the election. Bringing the winner-take-all as an amendment to LB 1300 was a strategic move aimed at encouraging meaningful discussion and action on this issue. This recent surge in interest compelled the Nebraska Legislature to take a public stance, thereby holding every member accountable for their stances.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Nebraskans Deserve Real Tax Relief

Last week, the Legislature debated the controversial property tax “reform” package from the Revenue Committee, LB 388. Although I appreciate the hard work of those on the committee in seeking a solution to lower property taxes, I remain opposed to the measure. After decades of increased property taxes, Nebraskans deserve true tax reform, not a tax shift.

I am well aware of high property taxes, however in crafting this tax package, it is apparent that this plan is instead of creating long-term sound fiscal solutions, it is “solving” one problem by creating another. This is simply an attempt for current elected officials to claim that they have lowered property taxes when they are looking for re-election. However, let’s not be fooled, a good tax policy will only come from less spending and lower taxes and not tax hikes and shifts. Nebraska has a spending problem and needs to limit spending on local governments.

The proposed tax package would raise Nebraska’s state sales tax rate by 1 cent, an 18% increase which would move Nebraska into the top 10 for highest rates among states. A sales tax hike means that Nebraskans will be paying more for the goods and services that their families need, increasing the cost of cars, clothes, and school supplies. Sales taxes are the most regressive tax category in the state resulting in little to no relief to low- and middle-income families.

Nebraska needs hard spending caps on school districts as they make up the largest portion of property tax spending instead of the Nebraska “mom and pop” shops that are trying to make payroll after the pandemic. This tax shift hurts our local grocery stores, storage facilities, veterinary clinics, and more. Raiding our rainy-day funds for short-term “tax relief” is not a permanent solution and is not a good fiscal policy. Furthermore, this tax shift fails to merely offer short-term relief for many Nebraskans.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.
Last week, the Legislature debated the controversial property tax “reform” package from the Revenue Committee, LB 388. Although I appreciate the hard work of those on the committee in seeking a solution to lower property taxes, I remain opposed to the measure. After decades of increased property taxes, Nebraskans deserve true tax reform, not a tax shift.

I am well aware of high property taxes, however in crafting this tax package, it is apparent that this plan is instead of creating long-term sound fiscal solutions, it is “solving” one problem by creating another. This is simply an attempt for current elected officials to claim that they have lowered property taxes when they are looking for re-election. However, let’s not be fooled, a good tax policy will only come from less spending and lower taxes and not tax hikes and shifts. Nebraska has a spending problem and needs to limit spending on local governments.

The proposed tax package would raise Nebraska’s state sales tax rate by 1 cent, an 18% increase which would move Nebraska into the top 10 for highest rates among states. A sales tax hike means that Nebraskans will be paying more for the goods and services that their families need, increasing the cost of cars, clothes, and school supplies. Sales taxes are the most regressive tax category in the state resulting in little to no relief to low- and middle-income families.

Nebraska needs hard spending caps on school districts as they make up the largest portion of property tax spending instead of the Nebraska “mom and pop” shops that are trying to make payroll after the pandemic. This tax shift hurts our local grocery stores, storage facilities, veterinary clinics, and more. Raiding our rainy-day funds for short-term “tax relief” is not a permanent solution and is not a good fiscal policy. Furthermore, this tax shift fails to merely offer short-term relief for many Nebraskans.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

We are nearing the end of the legislative session with only 12 session days left and the Legislature is starting to make a move on some pretty big bills. For example, at the end of this past week, we passed Senator Jacobson’s LB 1087 will establish a partnership between Nebraska hospitals and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to preserve healthcare services across Nebraska.

Nebraska is one of six states that do not participate in this federal program that reimburses a percentage of costs that come from treating Medicare and Medicaid patients. Joining this program represents a win-win proposition for the state, Nebraska hospitals, and Nebraskans needing health care services. Furthermore, this bill will also improve the quality of care for those citizens.

Inadequate Medicaid rates along with high medical inflation and below-cost Medicare rates have forced Nebraska hospitals (especially in rural areas) to eliminate and/or reduce essential services. Nebraskan hospitals have experienced closures of maternal care, behavioral health, home health, hospice, hospital-owned nursing homes, and others. This bill seeks to help mitigate these problems.

LB 1087 is particularly important for rural Nebraska, where hospitals are often under financial strain. This bill secures federal matching funds for Medicaid payment which will support the economic health of many hospitals. In doing so, rural residents will continue to have access to essential healthcare services. The passage of this bill will tap into federal resources which will bring in an estimated $950 million to the state’s hospitals. To be clear, this will also not raise Nebraska taxes whatsoever.

I look forward to continuing to discuss these issues in the coming weeks on the legislative floor. 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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

This week (March 17 through March 23) is National Ag Week, and as a rural, farming community, this is an important week for District 1. However, Nebraska agriculture entails much more than our corn, though we are the #2 ethanol producer in the nation. According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska is the #2 producer of popcorn in the nation. We are also ranked 6th for soybean, sunflower, and sugar beet production. Nebraska is home to the 4th highest amount of farm and ranchland, with 44,400 farms and ranches using up 89.4% of our state’s land.

Of course, agriculture is not just about farming. Nebraska is home to many ranches. In fact, Nebraska is home to 22 million acres of rangeland. We are the #1 beef and veal exporter in the nation, ranked 8th for pork exports and 6th for the number of pigs and hogs.

Nebraska is home to many young ag producers. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture reported that 11% of our ag producers are under the age of 34. As a rural Nebraskan myself, I understand just how important our rural, ag communities and culture are not only to our state but also to our nation. I am proud to serve the Nebraska farmers and ranchers of District 1. One out of every four jobs in our state is related to agriculture. Farmers are some of the hardest-working people in our state, and our policymakers should recognize them as such. Thank you to our farmers and ranchers and their families who keep our state, and our nation, fed and running smoothly.

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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

This past week we debated LB 175 in which I participated in a filibuster to defeat. LB 175 would have created the “Residential Tenant Clean Slate Act” which would allow for the sealing of court records related to eviction proceedings. It would create a process for tenants to petition the trial court for clean state relief under various circumstances.

One large problem with a clean slate relief is that it leaves future landlords vulnerable to bad tenants. Bad tenants that landlords could have protected themselves from if they would have been able to learn about the prior eviction cases filed against the tenant. In other words, we wouldn’t prevent a bank from looking at someone’s credit history, so why should we stop a landlord from looking at one’s rental history?

Landlords are business owners, too, just like farmers, medical practices, or your main street bakeries. Landlords are important to our business community and deserve to operate with transparency and security, while also having the ability to ensure their investments contribute positively to neighborhoods.

Property rights are essential to ensuring an equitable housing market. The possibility of Nebraska allowing the sealing of eviction records could weaken the balance between protecting tenant vulnerabilities and ensuring landlords can make informed decisions about their properties. Failing to meet this balance could decrease the quality of housing, community safety, and economic implications of the housing market.

I look forward to continuing to discuss these issues in the coming weeks on the legislative floor. 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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

This week, the Nebraska legislature is turning up the heat as we move from hearings into debate. Last week was the last of committee hearings and this week we begin all-day debate. Various bills have been passed by the legislature and await the governor’s signature. This week, I will share some of the bills that were passed by the legislature. These bills give power back to local government and allow reserve members of our military to serve in government.

The legislature passed LB 190, which would allow county boards to adopt resolutions that provide for payment schedules on bridge repair and reconstruction projects. It would also vest full authority in the county boards to create the payment schedule and provide that if another provision of the law in the county conflicts with the bill, the bill will take precedence. This bill provides a solution to our infrastructure needs without seeking to increase property taxes or additional bonding authority. With construction costs only getting more expensive, it is critical to allow for longer payment terms on these essential projects to lock in current prices so bridges can be repaired immediately.

The legislature also passed LB 152 which would eliminate the registration requirement of membership campgrounds under the Membership Campground Act. Under current law, membership campgrounds must register with the Nebraska Real Estate Commission. LB 152 will remove this requirement. Initially, membership campgrounds were required to register with the Nebraska Real Estate Commission to add protections to consumers, however, this registration requirement resulted in little to no value to both the state and consumers. LB 152 would do away with the registration provisions that have consumed NREC resources, which would be better utilized for protecting consumers elsewhere.

The legislature also passed LB 731. Currently, there are laws in place that prevent public officials from violating public trust, such as “double-dipping,” conflict of interest, corruption, or poor performance by public officials. Part of this law includes the fact that one cannot have another job if they are serving as a director of various state agencies. However, service to the Nebraska National Guard, Air, or Army is currently included in this preventive measure. LB 731 would add an exception for membership in a reserve component of the armed forces of the United States.

I look forward to continuing to discuss these issues in the coming weeks on the legislative floor. 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: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1
Room 1117
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2733
Email: jslama@leg.ne.gov
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