Weekly Legislative Update
Day 68 of our 90-day long session starts this week. Things continue to move very quickly in our office even when lengthy ongoing debate on the floor of the legislature prevails. Even though topics such as state aid and retirement fund changes continue to absorb large amounts of time, the legislature was able to complete a second round of debate on consent calendar, including LB500 which I introduced to help clarify requirements for placing stop signs at school bus stops for the safety of our school children who rely on school bus transportation.
Debate over LB407, also known as state aid to schools, ground to a halt last week as rural senators tried to defend our tax dollars from flowing disproportionately towards urban districts. Unfortunately, several of our school districts do not receive state aid. Large school districts are the largest recipients of state aid, however, it is crucial that our small school districts continue to make the case for equalization aid. Senators temporarily came to an impasse after a couple of amendments failed to received the 25 votes they needed to pass. The bill was removed from the agenda so that additional adjustments could be made, and eventually passed the first round of debate by the end of the week.
We also completed general file debate on LB140 which redefines the term “airport hazard area” to include approach, operation, transition, and turning zones. This change is important because it precisely defines which areas surrounding an airport are subject to airport zoning regulations. Our original airport zoning laws which were passed in 1945 do not make accommodation for changes in technology and aircraft design, so this update is crucial for airports in our district, especially Blair, which has faced some challenges with current regulations based on the old statutes.
This week, the appropriations committee will likely advance a budget that the full body will begin to debate shortly. Right now, it looks like state spending will increase right around 5 percent. A few days ago, we received notice from the Department of Revenue that the state received a one-time bump of $125 million in additional tax receipts at the end of 2012. This very large, one time increase to net personal income tax estimates that is not a recurring event.
According to the Nebraska Department of Revenue: “Starting in mid-April, in conjunction with final tax payments for calendar 2012, it became apparent there would be a huge influx of revenue, most likely in relation to capital gains liabilities incurred in 2012. You may recall that Congress acted very late on some tax related legislation, creating uncertainty as to continued (relatively low) preferential tax treatment of capital gains in 2012. In all likelihood, it appears many taxpayers took gains to lock in the lower tax rate, rather than risk losing the tax advantage if Congress failed to act to extend the favorable tax treatment to 2013.” These tax dollars should be returned to the hard-working taxpayers of Nebraska or moved to the rainy day cash reserve fund for a time of future need.
In the next 10 days, I will be spending time in Burt and Cuming counties holding listening meeting town halls with constituents about issues of concern to them and to hear thoughts on pending legislation. If you have time, please join me at one or more of the following stops listed on this blog.
As always, if you are able to join me at one of my town halls or need more immediate assistance, please feel free to continue to contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,
Senator Lydia Brasch