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This column covers legislative days 75 through 78.
Last week in the Unicameral was another with plenty of heavy lifting. We took votes on the state’s budget, a bill relating to the Department of Corrections, and a bill relating to human trafficking, passing all three. We also debated bills relating to tax incentives for businesses, opportunity scholarships, and medical cannabis, taking no vote on those bills. After a long week of intense debate, I was thankful to come home and spend some time working in my chiropractic clinic and with my family.
On May 14th we debated the state’s $9.3 billion budget. I and other senators took some issue with the size of the budget and some of the things we are spending money on. Unfortunately, we were blocked from voicing our concerns. A group of senators took enough time that we were unable to debate a meaningful amendment brought by Senator Clements of Elmwood that would have decreased our overall spending. This effort to delay backfired a bit as a cloture vote that would have passed the budget through Select File without discussing Sen. Clements’ amendment failed. I and other senators were given the opportunity to voice our concerns when the budget returned on May 15th. I proposed a plan that would decrease spending by 1 penny for every dollar spent, effectively and efficiently reducing the size of government. I also expressed my concerns that the budget did not prioritize meaningful property tax for Nebraskans, specifically ag producers. Nebraska’s constitution requires a balanced budget, so at the end of debate we upheld our constitutional duty, voting to advance the budget for final consideration.
The newly proposed business tax incentive program also came up for debate on May 15th. Tax incentive programs are controversial topics in Nebraska because the last few attempts at creating a plan that would contribute to Nebraska’s economy have ended up costing the state more than they were worth. Though LB 720 does better support small business growth more than previous programs, I believe it should do more. To qualify for incentives at the lowest level, companies must create 5 new jobs or invest $1 million. For most businesses, especially rural businesses, this is simply out of reach. Perhaps the plan should be changed to incorporate incentives for creating 3 new jobs, this would be more in alignment with the reality for most businesses; setting a substantial but attainable goal. The bill did not come up for a vote but is likely to return before adjournment. Nebraska’s current program is set to expire in 2020.
The Speaker of the Legislature announced on May 16th that we will be ending this session on May 31st rather than the originally scheduled June 6th. According to the Speaker, we have enough time between now and May 31st to execute our responsibilities for the rest of the session. Many of you have asked about LB 289 and property tax relief. I am in support of bringing the bill back for more debate, but at the time of writing this column, it remains unclear whether the bill will have enough support to return this year.
If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org