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As we passed the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I hope everyone had a chance to remember all those we lost on that fateful day and thank the first responders in our communities and around the country for the sacrifices they make each and every day. Each year it is inspiring to see our nation come together and remind us all that our similarities far outweigh our differences. The victims and their loved ones, as well as first responders, continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
A few weeks ago Mike and I were blessed with our twelfth grandchild. Miss Gentry Rose was born on August 31st, joining her older siblings Greeley, Grayder, and Grisham. Both Mom and baby are doing great and we are overjoyed! Between visiting with little ones, I have been staying busy in the district attending Thurston’s Watermelon Days and meeting with community leaders.
The Platte Institute held their annual Legislative Summit on September 13th. This year’s focus was on “Working Together” in the Legislature and we were lucky to hear from fellow Nebraska policymakers as well as economists and research fellows from multiple national organizations. Senator John Stinner, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, spoke about our current financial situation and what we can expect in the upcoming legislative session. While we have experienced solid growth so far this year, we will still need to keep a tight belt on legislative spending as we continue to rebuild our state’s “rainy day” fund and fund the state’s annual budget. Senator Stinner made it clear that legislation that is presented next year should not contain a fiscal note unless it is an absolutely necessary expense, it is incredibly important that we ensure every dollar is spent wisely. Senator Stinner also cautioned attendees of the dangers of the Medicaid expansion proposition that will appear on the ballot this November, at the moment we do not have money to fund the preliminary projected costs of expansion. Soon the Legislature will have a better projected cost of expansion, but the number is expected to be higher than previously thought, leaving many of us in doubt that we add expansion costs to our current budget. If we are to fund Medicaid expansion, it also drastically reduces the possibility of the Legislature achieving property tax relief and comprehensive tax reform.
The Platte Institute also facilitated a discussion about property tax relief at the summit with Senator Curt Friesen (LD34, Transportation Committee Chair), Senator Mike McDonnell (LD5, Appropriations Committee member), Jay Rempe of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Joe Young of the Chamber of Commerce, and Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation. All generally agreed that more Senators need to come to the table to discuss property tax relief and that compromise will be needed to get something done. Next month, the forecasting board will meet to produce the state’s revenue projections for the upcoming year. Once we receive the forecast we will have a much better idea of our financial restraints going into the 2019 legislative session.
While the Nebraska Supreme Court recently ruled that the Medicaid expansion question is constitutionally sound to appear on ballots this November, I strongly urge my constituents to learn more about the impacts this would have on our state. Nebraska Proposition 126 is misleadingly worded, sounding as if the Federal Government will foot the entire bill of expansion for the foreseeable future. The proposition states that policymakers must “…maximize federal financial participation to fund their care.” While Federal dollars are still your tax dollars as well, the proposition and its implementation necessitates that Nebraskan taxpayers are responsible for a large portion of funds. Medicaid expansion in Nebraska would likely begin implementation in 2020, per the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), starting in 2020 the Federal government will only pay 90% of expanded Medicaid costs. Should the Federal government decide to dial back funding of Medicaid expansion following 2020, Nebraskans could be left in a much dire funding situation than the current projections which already look bad for the budget. While Medicaid expansion and health care coverage is a multi-layered issue that we must continue to discuss, it is clear that Nebraska does not have the money fund Medicaid expansion this year and I fear we would need to cut funding to current programs or drastically raise taxes should this proposition pass. Please consider all of the implications of this reform when heading to vote this November.
I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!
Senator Joni Albrecht
State Capitol, Room 2010
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604