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May 3, 2023
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Sen. John Arch invites students to youth legislature
High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 11-14. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.
“The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives participants first-hand experience in Nebraska’s distinctive legislative process,” said Senator John Arch. “Students interested in future public service will gain a valuable lesson about our democratic system of government and will learn about the challenges and rewards of making public policy.”
The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.
To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 22.
As of this posting, the Legislature is poised to enact significant tax reform resulting in nearly $6 billion dollars going back to taxpayers over the next six years. Robust revenue growth and responsibly restrained spending has resulted in a record amount of available funds in the state’s coffers.
Two bills, LB 754 and LB 243, represent two pieces of a greater overall legislative package designed to make sweeping changes to Nebraska’s tax system and its approach to education funding. The Legislature recently debated and advanced both bills from General File, the first round of debate, with overwhelming support.
LB 754 would result in about $3 billion in tax cuts over six years and is comprised of the following components:
• Reduces gradually the top personal income tax rate from 6.27% to 3.99% by 2027. The corporate tax rate would also be lowered to 3.99% by 2027;
• Phases out the income tax on Social Security, making this retirement income 100% exempt from state taxes by the 2024 tax year;
• Exempts from state income taxes, federal pension benefits received by retirees who don’t receive Social Security;
• Allows for tax credits for parents with children in childcare, for people who donate to childcare programs and for people who operate or work for childcare programs;
• Allows taxpayers to deduct from their federal adjusted growth income either the standard deduction or federal itemized deduction plus the total amount of state and local property taxes paid, whichever is greater;
• Provides for a deduction for corporations for research and experimental expenditures; and
• Establishes a 15-day grace period before out-of-state workers are subject to Nebraska income taxes.
In an effort to mirror the relief provided by the income tax changes, LB 243 would also result in $3 billion in property tax relief by doing the following:
• Increases the amount the state contributes to the property tax credit program from $313 million this year to $560 million by 2029. The fund will continue to increase every year afterwards by the same percentage the statewide total assessed value of property increases from the prior year. While the state doesn’t levy a property tax, the property tax credit program provides for a direct reduction in the amount a property taxpayer owes local governing bodies;
• Removes the growth cap under the Nebraska Property Tax Incentive Act to allow dedicated funds in this program to also grow at the same percentage rate as statewide assessed valuation. Under this program, taxpayers can receive income tax credits to offset the amount of property taxes paid to school districts;
• Limits the annual growth of school revenues to 3%, with exceptions for growth in student population, the number of limited English proficiency learners and poverty students; and
• Eliminates the property tax levy authority for community colleges and provides for state funding with the exception of allowing community colleges to levy property taxes for capital improvements and to fill in gaps should the state not meet its funding obligations.
Nebraska’s corporate and income taxes are not competitive with surrounding states and ever-increasing property taxes are driving people out of our great state. With an unprecedented surplus, Nebraska is in a unique situation and now is the time to resist more government spending and give that money back to the taxpayers.
Today the Legislature is finishing up two weeks of all day committee hearings. Holding full days of hearings is not customary practice but was implemented this session to assess how best to use the Legislature’s limited time. At the beginning of a session, bills are going through the committee process and there are very few items reported to the floor and available for debate. This results in idle time at the start of a session and long days at the end as we scramble to accomplish as much as we can before adjourning for the year. Next week the Legislature will resume its traditional schedule of floor debate in the mornings and public hearings in the afternoon.
While it remains to be seen if this experiment provides more time for valuable floor debate, during these first few weeks of public hearings, the standing committees of the Legislature have heard an unprecedented number of bills. By the end of today, 309 different measures will have been the subject of a hearing, open for public testimony. Some of these hearings brought out hundreds of citizens to the State Capitol, with senators receiving public input through the lunch hour and late into the evenings. In addition to in-person testimony, comments on these bills submitted through the Legislature’s online comment option have totaled more than 9,000. Nebraskans are engaged and the Legislature is listening.
The first session of the 108th Legislature is well-underway, having convened on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January (January 4th) as required by the Nebraska Constitution. Not only did the start of the session see the swearing in of a new Governor, sixteen new senators joined the Legislature as well. The first three weeks of the session has included the assignment of committees and the election of legislative leadership. I was named the Speaker of the Legislature and am honored to have the opportunity to serve in that role for the next two years. Members have also debated the adoption of the permanent rules of legislative procedure and of course have introduced new legislation. The last day of bill introduction was January 18th and over 800 measures were introduced this session. Next week the fourteen legislative standing committees will begin the process of conducting public hearings on each and every measure introduced. While members of the Legislature always welcome the chance to personally interact with citizens who are able to testify at a public hearing, there is now an option to provide comments on bills online once the bill has been scheduled for a hearing. You can get more information about pending legislation on the Legislature’s webpage: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/ and of course, you are always welcome to contact my office.
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