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2015 Session Underway
The Legislature convened in January and I was elected as the new chairperson for the Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. For the past six weeks I have been responsible for ensuring the 50 bills that have been referred to the committee are scheduled for public hearings and discussed by the committee’s eight members. The committee decides whether the policy proposed in each bill merits consideration by the entire Legislature and either votes to advance a measure, indefinitely postpone it, or hold it until a later date. This process will continue until mid-March.
In addition to these new duties, I am still responsible for the twenty pieces of legislation I have personally sponsored, many of which are related to the transportation and telecommunication industries. This session, I was honored to assist the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission by sponsoring the Sesquicentennial License Plate bill (LB 220). A yet to be unveiled license plate will be available for those who want one from October 1st of this year through 2022. The specialty plate will provide the Commission with a valuable fundraising tool as it prepares for the celebration of Nebraska’s 150th anniversary of statehood in 2017. The bill passed unanimously and has already been signed into law by Governor Ricketts.
While LB 220 passed easily, another bill I introduced will present a challenge but will have a greater impact on our state. LB 357 would provide much-needed tax relief to all Nebraskans. The bill would include income tax cuts for individuals, families and businesses as well as bolster our Property Tax Credit Fund.
The Tax Foundation’s 2015 State Business Tax Climate ranks Nebraska in the bottom half of all states with respect to our tax policies. Compared to surrounding states, Nebraska has one of the highest top income tax rates, making it difficult to compete for new businesses and jobs. Over 30 states have already or are in the process of considering tax reform and it is imperative we act now or risk falling behind in economic opportunities.
LB 357 would take a measured approached to ensure any tax cut is paid in full and does not harm essential services. Tax reductions for all brackets would be slowly phased in over a period of 8 years, bringing the top bracket down from 6.84% to 5.92% and the lowest bracket from 2.46% to 1.23%. Continued growth in revenue could trigger further reductions. In addition to the personal income tax cuts, LB 357 would reduce the tax burden on businesses and would increase the amount of credit property owners receive on their tax bills. A majority of these tax cuts would be offset by reducing government spending growth by 1 percent annually, while a very small portion of the lost revenue would be replaced through the state’s Cash Reserve Fund. This savings account is at a record high of over $700 million dollars. That is $700 million dollars of taxpayer dollars that should go back to the taxpayers.
For nearly 150 years, Nebraska has flourished and grown into a state for which we can be proud. With the passage of LB 357, we can continue to grow and with the passage of LB 220, we can display the pride we have in our state, Nebraska.