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Weekly Legislative Update
The sun is shining and our agricultural producers have been in the fields working diligently this past week! The legislature completed day seventy-nine of the ninety-day session on Thursday, as senators voted to advance the two-year budget to the final round of debate.
This week, the Unicameral spent almost two days debating the LB543 introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha which would repeal the death penalty. Chambers has introduced similar legislation over 30 times during his tenure as a senator. Proponents of the legislation argued that the death penalty has proven costly to the State of Nebraska because of the numerous appeals. During debate on the legislation, I had the opportunity to remind my colleagues about how the death penalty is only applied for the most heinous criminals. After lengthy discussion, the legislation failed to receive the necessary votes for advancement. It is highly likely that similar legislation will be introduced again in the future.
Senator Chambers also introduced an amendment this week to repeal the local option sales tax adopted by an override of the governor’s veto last year. As you may recall, I opposed Senator Ashford’s legislation, which instated the option for this tax last year. During my tenure in the legislature, no taxpayer has ever asked me to increase their taxes. It is important for our state to create a competitive tax environment for our businesses in rural Nebraska. Holding the line on taxes is key for rural economic development so that we can keep good-paying jobs and vibrant businesses here in rural Nebraska.
Over the past year, Omaha has elected not to utilize the local option sales tax, meaning their sales tax rate remains at 7%. Should communities adjacent to Omaha elect to increase their sales tax, they run the risk of increasing the amount of boarder bleed they already experience. During the interim, the legislature is looking at forming a tax commission to study Nebraska’s tax code and review our 50-year-old system of taxation. In principle, I support efforts to broaden the tax base and lower overall rates to help stimulate growth and increase resources for our municipalities.
On Tuesday, the legislature moved to override the governor’s veto of the legislation yesterday. Benefits for teacher’s during and after their service is important attracting the best teacher’s to our rural schools. This legislation only changes benefits for new hires. It is also important, however, for the state to pursue long-term solutions to our retirement programs and the comprehensive fiscal impact. LB553 provides a solution for the short term, but assumes an 8% growth rate that is unlikely to be realized and carries a cost to the state of over $500 million in the next 25 years.
In the vote to override the governor’s veto of LB553, I did not support the override because I believe that the legislature needs to pursue long-term solutions that are equitable to both the teacher and the taxpayer. Concerns have been raised that LB553 did not accomplish this. It is clear, however, that the legislature must meet its statutory obligation to fully fund the retirement program in this biennial budget. The budget that I have supported on both general and select file does just that. It is important ensure the longevity of our state-funded retirement plan because it provides an exceptionally competitive benefit that helps attract great teachers to our communities.
This week, our office welcomed students from Oakland-Craig Elementary. We always enjoy opportunities to visit with our young constituents. They always bring eager faces and great questions. As always, please 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