Friday, April 21st was the 69th day of the legislative session. With only 20 legislative days left in the session, there is still a lot of work left to be done. Next week we will begin to have a series of late night votes that could take us to 9:30 p.m. or later.
On Thursday, the legislature debated bills that were on the Consent Calendar. These are bills selected by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk and are fairly non-controversial. Each bill is allowed 15 minutes of introduction and debate and can be pulled from the agenda if enough senators feel that a bill is too controversial or complicated for such an expedited process.
I’m pleased that my bill, LB 264 – which is a bill that makes some technical changes relating to the qualifications of state boiler inspectors – was selected for consent calendar and now moves into the next round of debate. This bill was introduced at the Department of Labor’s request to match standard language used by the industry.
On Friday, we took up LB 461, a bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion which would change the way agricultural land is assessed and cut the state’s income and corporate tax rates if projected state revenue growth meets certain targets.
The bill, as amended would change Nebraska’s method of valuing ag land to an income based approach, would use economic growth rates to trigger income tax cuts and would change income tax rates and personal exemption amounts.
LB 461 would eliminate income tax exemptions for some high earners and increases tax credits for low-income families by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit by 20 percent.
The bill is not perfect. I, along with many of my colleagues, would like to see more done on the property tax side of the equation, as this is an issue that directly impacts ag producers throughout our state.
We did not have a final vote on the bill on Friday. The only vote that was taken was a vote to send the bill back to the Revenue Committee, which would have essentially killed the bill for the year.
That attempt failed by a vote of 29-17. For the bill to return to the schedule, Sen. Smith must be able to prove he has the support of 33 senators to vote to end debate. Whatever LB 461’s final fate may be, I’m glad that we were at least able to have the floor debate over reducing the tax burden on Nebraskans. According to Sen. Smith, it has been close to 20 years since the Unicameral has engaged in such a discussion, which has been too long.
Time and time again, I have heard from my constituents who have said the tax climate in Nebraska is tough on business owners, ag producers and families. My goal is see meaningful tax reform that leaves our state in a better position to compete on a national level, and I’m grateful to Sen. Smith and Governor Pete Ricketts for at least allowing us to have this discussion this week.
We will just have to wait and see if this bill returns to the floor in the next twenty days.