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Following a long weekend celebrating Easter, our thirteenth week were days 50-53, with only six session days remaining. Unfortunately, time is running out to find agreement on solutions to the property tax burden. Last week saw some progress but not a long term solution.
LB958 and LB959 are complementary bills introduced at the request of Governor Ricketts to specifically address the growing property tax burden. LB958 was introduced in the Revenue Committee and LB959 was introduced in the Education Committee. Both bills underwent significant transformation, both in their respective committees and during long and heated floor debate. LB958 passed General File with a vote of 39-2 and the form it eventually took was adding $20 million more to the $204 million Property Tax Credit Cash Fund, and also cuts $120 for every $100,000 of valuation for agricultural land. LB959 passed General File with a vote of 38-3, and it repeals the minimum levy requirement that school districts must abide by in order to not lose state aid. I supported both bills.
LB1037 was also debated. This bill was brought to me by the Department of Revenue and the Governor’s Policy Research Office to address the property tax burden on agriculture in counties whose first acre valuations have dramatically risen due to non-agricultural housing development adjacent to farmland. LB1037 redefined agricultural and horticultural land to include farm home sites lying in or adjacent to and in common ownership or management with other agricultural and horticultural land. It would have required land underneath homes to be valued at 75% of its market value, but the house itself would still be valued at 100% of market value. The home site for farmers and ranchers is different from individuals who live in town because for almost all of the people who live in town their livelihood is not tied to their home. When property taxes rise dramatically in town, those individuals have the option to move. When property taxes rise dramatically on farmers and ranchers, they do not have the option to move because their house is tied to their livelihood. In the interest of time I pulled the bill after extended debate.
LB1032, Medicaid Expansion, was debated last week. Since the inception of Medicaid in Nebraska, it has grown from 2% of our state budget to 20% of our state budget. For Fiscal Year 2015-16, the Legislature appropriated about $820 million to Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid to another 134,000 individuals is something our citizens cannot afford – it is unstainable. The estimated expenditures, which comes from the Legislative Fiscal Office, was about $155 million for fiscal year 2017-18. The cost would only increase as more people will be added to the program. LB1032 failed to pass and I did not support it.
LB1067 caused another lengthy debate. It eliminated the Common Levy for the Learning Community and adds the option for multi-district educational service units to submit community achievement plans. The bill also adds a poverty aid component to the TEEOSA formula for school districts with poverty students comprising more than 40% of total students. LB1067 was another bill that required extended debate but passed General File 40-1. I supported this bill.
Thank you to Chaplain Jonathan Ripke who came to the Capitol to say the opening prayer at the start of the day on Tuesday. Chaplain Ripke is from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Washington County.
Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol. You can follow the Legislature online at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.