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Over 12 hours of testimony was presented at the public hearings this past week before the Revenue Committee on the two bills introduced at the request of the Governor to eliminate or reduce the individual and corporate income taxes. Governor Heineman proposed the bills as a way to create higher-paying jobs and keep our young people, retirees and veterans in the state. The loss in income tax revenue would be replaced with increased revenue from the sales tax, through the elimination of certain sales tax exemptions.
There were only a few testifiers in support of LB 405 and LB 406, in addition to the sponsors of the bills, Senators Beau McCoy and Brad Ashford of Omaha, the Governor himself, and the Tax Commissioner, Doug Ewald. However, there was no short supply of opponents. They filled the committee hearing room and spilled into an overflow room nearby. Opponents included the state chamber of commerce, agricultural organizations, health care providers, nonprofit groups, college students, as well as low-income Nebraskans. Furthermore, several businesses have threatened to leave the state if certain sales tax exemptions are repealed.
The hearing on LB 405 lasted until after 11 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Although I am not a member of the Revenue Committee, I did sit in on the hearing for several hours, after finishing up with my committee work. The hearing on LB 406 was held the following afternoon.
Information provided on the projected fiscal impact of LB 405, which eliminates both the income tax on individuals and the corporate income tax, showed a loss in revenue ranging from $171 million to $340 million by fiscal year 2016-17. The intent of LB 405 was to be revenue neutral. The fiscal uncertainty caused testifiers to stress the need for caution when discussing major tax reform.
I have heard from many constituents on the Governor’s proposals and the response has overwhelmingly been in opposition to LB 405 and LB 406. The Revenue Committee has not taken any action on LB 405 or LB 406, but it is doubtful that either bill will advance from committee, as introduced.
As a state senator, I receive information on programs and services offered by various organizations and agencies. From time to time, I will share some of this information with you. One service that I recently became aware of is the Nebraska Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), which is a division of the Nebraska Department of Insurance. This program offers free, unbiased counseling and education to older Nebraskans and persons with disabilities regarding Medicare and health insurance. The role of SHIIP is to help people understand their options so they can make informed choices. If you have Medicare questions or would like to arrange a meeting with a SHIIP counselor, I encourage you to call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-234-7119.
I appreciate the input I have received from the constituents of the 1st legislative district. In order to have the opportunity to hear from more of you, I have set up several open houses on Saturday, February 23. At 8:00 a.m., I will hold an open house at Janie’s Confections, 618 Central Avenue in Nebraska City; at 10:00 a.m. at Family Connections, 901 Central Avenue in Auburn; at noon at Schulenberg Bakery, 1713 Stone Street in Falls City; and at 2:30 p.m. at The Gathering Place, 718 3rd Street in Humboldt. I encourage you to stop by on February 23 so that I can get the chance to meet you and to hear your thoughts on issues that are before the Legislature.
My contact information is District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln NE 68509. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my office telephone number is (402) 471-2733.