Eighteen new senators helped kick off the 2017 legislative session, which convened for the 90-day cycle on January 4th. The beginning of the 105th Legislature’s two-year chapter not only saw a large number of freshman senators, it also ushered in a large number of changes to leadership positions. In fact, only three incumbent senators held on to their former chair positions. I was one of the incumbent senators who changed positions. For the past two-years, I was the chairman of the Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, on which I still remain a member. However, on the first day of the session, I was elected to serve as the chairman of the Revenue Committee. As such, I intend to concentrate my efforts on tax reform over the next couple of years.
Of the 674 bills and resolutions introduced, 87 have been referred to the Revenue Committee. One of those bills to be considered by the Revenue Committee is a bill I introduced on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts – LB 337. This measure seeks to bring income tax relief and takes a fiscally responsible approach by phasing in a reduction of the top income bracket over an eight-year period beginning in 2020. The current top bracket of 6.84 percent will eventually be reduced to 5.99 percent, but only if our revenues grow sufficiently to ensure education and critical state programs are adequately funded. Any scheduled decrease will be deferred if the state’s projected revenue growth is less than 3.5 percent. Our current top tax rate of 6.84% – applied to a single tax payer who makes as little as $29,831 per year – is one of the highest rates among our bordering states (only Iowa’s is higher). LB 337 will make our state more competitive and attractive to new businesses and residents, allowing us to grow our tax base and our economy.
While LB 337 focuses on income taxes, several other bills have been introduced to address property taxes and sales taxes as well. As the Revenue Committee chairman, I will pay close attention to all the proposals introduced and I intend to work closely with my colleagues to bring real, comprehensive tax relief to all Nebraskans.