We were able to enact a series of important new laws in the recently completed 2012 legislative session.
We lowered the tax burden on Nebraska taxpayers, balanced the budget, made investments in K-12 and postsecondary education, reformed our child welfare system, and established new job creation initiatives.
One of our best acts was to lower the tax burden on each and every Nebraskan who pays any state income tax. I co-sponsored the bill, LB 970, which lowered rates for the first three brackets of the state income tax schedule. All brackets were also expanded, resulting in more income qualifying for lower rates. When fully implemented, a typical family will see their income tax burden lowered across the board. We still have work to do to further reduce Nebraskans’ tax burden. By growing our economy, we can provide necessary government services while reducing the tax burden.
We also made progress on limiting local occupation taxes. LB 745, another measure I co-sponsored, would prohibit cities from imposing occupation taxes beyond a certain level without specific voter approval. Local voter permission would be required before our cities and villages utilized these taxes. I think it is essential for local residents to determine how their city funds itself and LB 745 ensures that voters have the final word on these decisions and does not expand taxing authority while doing so.
State budget adjustments were made to made to invest in K-12 education and new postsecondary education opportunities.
We infused $10 million into K-12 special education funding to assist local school districts in meeting the needs of special education students. Each school district in the state will benefit from this increased state funding.
The University of Nebraska was also able to be a part of our budget adjustments. A University of Nebraska Medical Center cancer research center, the University of Nebraska – Kearney Nursing and Allied Health facility, and a new veterinary laboratory at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln were all a part of our budget package. These new investments will provide well-paying new research jobs as well as provide a group of new health care workers in critical workforce shortage areas. I am particularly pleased that all of these requests require significant matching funds by the University Foundation in order to access state funds. Accountability measures are essential to good governance.
Necessary reforms were made to Nebraska’s child welfare system through passage of a series of bills. Child welfare caseworker caseloads will be reduced. Foster family payment rates will be increased. The Nebraska Children’s Commission was created to bring the legislative, executive, and judicial branch representatives, as well as parents, providers, advocates, and foster children, together to identify shortcomings in the system and develop collaborative solutions to improve it. We must do better in ensuring the protection and safety of our most vulnerable children. I am hopeful that our reform package will lead to better outcomes for our kids.
New job creation initiatives were passed to enlarge and enhance job opportunities in Nebraska. We were able to develop incentives to encourage the development of large data centers in our state. This is a key industry in the 21st century and our Legislative District is well on its way to finishing one of the most appealing technology parks in the state. This new incentive will make our park very attractive to businesses who are entering or expanding in this sector of our economy. We also enhanced a research and development credit for technology and bioresearch companies, provided incentives for growth in the biochip industry, permitted incentives, with local approval, for new film production, and created an independent state tourism commission to expand and promote new tourism opportunities.
Good things were done in the 2012 session to lower taxes and create new jobs. We were also able to make investments in new education and health care initiatives. While the session had its setbacks, I’m pleased with some of our accomplishments and look forward to further advancing our state’s interests in the future.
I invite you to visit my senator webpage (http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist15/) for further information on other 2012 legislative activities.
Please continue to share your thoughts with me on issues of interest to you. I can be reached at 402.471.2625, email@example.com, or District 15, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.